WASHINGTON – Those little memory lapses, like forgetting names or losing keys, are aggravating for some people and worrisome for others.
But there is a way to fight back.
“It is pretty clear that memory loss is something you can do a lot about,” says Dr. Neal Barnard, an adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine.
Think of your brain like you think of your heart — a vital muscle that needs nutrition, rest and, perhaps most of all, exercise.
“In the same way that you can keep a healthy heart, you can keep strong bones, you can keep a strong brain as well,” says Barnard.
Experts agree that sleep is essential, and that not getting enough shut-eye can do damage to memory functions. Barnard says it is during the various phases of sleep that the brain integrates all the memories made over the course of a day.
“If you are awake during those times, your brain can’t do the remembering, and you are going to have trouble keeping track of all of those things,” he says.
He says a heart-healthy diet that keeps cholesterol in check also benefits the brain. And while some researchers say omega-3 fatty acids can help, Barnard says most supplements are not effective for the brain. The one exception he cites is the use of certain B vitamins for people with too much of the amino acid homocysteine in their blood.