A neuroscientist says: The best way to take care of your brain is to apply the same strategies involved in taking care of your heart, such as eating healthfully and exercising regularly. Exercise triggers an increase in the number of new cells in the hippocampus, which is ground zero for making new memories. People who continue to stimulate themselves with new intellectual challenges have been shown to age more successfully. Learning to play a musical instrument, for example, helps engage the parts of the brain involved in detecting patterns. Read challenging books or learn a new language. Being in an environment with a lot of stimulation–new sights, smells, and tastes–nourishes the brain as well. The brain thrives on change, so you have to constantly throw new challenges at it.—Julian R. Keith, Ph.D., director of neuroscience for Memory Assessment and Research Services, Wilmington, N.C.
A dietitian says: To maximize your memory, maintain a balanced diet that includes healthy fats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Inflammation may promote memory loss, but getting omega-3 fatty acids through salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds helps brain cells reduce inflammation. Spices like turmeric and ginger also reduce inflammation–try cooking with the fresh or freeze-dried versions. B vitamins help the body use fatty acids, so make sure to eat B-rich foods like beans, and whole-grain bread and pasta. In mice studies, researchers have found that an antioxidant in green tea may protect memory. And in general, deeply colored fruits and vegetables like blueberries, beets, radishes, and broccoli provide phytonutrients that may boost brain health.—Dee Sandquist, M.S., R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association
A naturopath says: A top supplement is phosphatidylserine [PS], which helps keep cell membranes intact and enables cell communication, preserving memory. I suggest 300 milligrams daily. Ginkgo biloba is considered one of the best herbs for memory; it increases blood flow to the brain and acts as an antioxidant. Daily doses vary from 120 to 240 mg. The ayurvedic herb Bacopa monniera has been used for centuries to improve alertness, boost cognitive functioning, and sharpen memory. The standard dose is 200 to 400 mg daily. When researchers studied older individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, they found diminished levels of the clinically beneficial fatty acid DHA in the patients’ brains. If you don’t eat fish, consider supplementing your diet with 500 to 1,000 mg daily.—Keri Marshall, N.D., M.S., spokeswoman for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians