An 81-year-old brain doctor’s 7 ‘hard rules’ for keeping his memory ‘sharp as a whip’

An 81-year-old brain doctor's 7 'hard rules' for keeping his memory 'sharp as a whip'

Like any other part of your body, your brain needs daily exercise. neglect your brain health can make you vulnerable to degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

As a neuroscientistI have spent decades guiding patients with memory problems through Habits and exercises to improve the brain. — many of which I also practice.

Here are seven brain rules I follow to keep my memory sharp as a whip at 81:

1. Choose fiction when you can.

You can learn a lot from nonfiction works, but they are often organized in a way that allows you to skip around based on your personal interests and prior familiarity with the subject.

Fiction, on the other hand, requires you to exercise your memory as you progress from beginning to end while retaining a variety of details, characters, and plots.

By the way, I have noticed throughout my years as a neuropsychiatrist that people with early dementia, as one of the first signs of the invasive disease, often stop reading novels.

2. Never leave an art museum without testing your memory.

“Western Motel” by Edward Hopper 1957. Oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 50 1/8 inches (77.8 x 128.3 cm). Housed in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. (Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

Fine Arts | Getty

My favorite painting for visualization exercises is “Western Motel” by Edward Hopper depicting a woman sitting in a sunlit motel room.

Start by carefully studying the details until you can see them in your mind. Then describe the painting while looking away.

Illustration: Olivia de Recat for CNBC Make It

Did you include the little clock on the nightstand? The gooseneck lamp? The piece of clothing on the chair at the bottom right of the painting? Can you remember the colors and composition of the room?

You can do this with any piece of art to improve your memory.

3. Keep naps under 90 minutes.

Naps lasting from 30 minutes to an hour and a half, between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., have been is shown to increase later recall of the encoded information before nap time.

various studies they have also found that naps can make up for a lack of sleep at night. If you suffer from insomnia, a mid-afternoon nap can increase memory performance.

Over the years, I have trained myself to take a nap of exactly half an hour. Some people I know have learned to nap for just 15 minutes and then wake up refreshed and revitalized.

4. No party is complete without mind games.

My favorite activity is “20 Questions,” where one person (the questioner) leaves the room and the other players select a person, place, or thing. The questioner can ask up to 20 questions to guess what the group decided.

Success depends on the interrogator’s ability to clearly recall all the answers and mentally eliminate possible options based on the answers.

Bridge and chess are also excellent memory exercises: to do well, you need to evaluate previous games, while also considering the future consequences of your decisions in the past and present.

5. Eat brain food.

Dr. Uma Naidooa nutritional psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, has a great acronym for a FOOD FOR THE BRAIN:

  • B.: Berries and beans
  • R.: Colors of the rainbow of fruits and vegetables.
  • A: Antioxidants
  • I: Include lean proteins and plant-based proteins
  • north: Walnuts
  • F: High-fiber foods and fermented foods
  • EITHER: Oils
  • EITHER: Foods rich in omega
  • D.: Dairy products
  • S: Spices

And good news for chocoholics (like me): A study 2020 found that cocoa flavonoids, the ingredients of dark chocolate, can improve episodic memory in healthy young adults.

6. Use images for things that are hard to remember.

My wife’s dog, Leah, is a Schipperke (pronounced “SKIP-er-kee”). It’s a distinctive name, but I’d have a hard time remembering it. So to finally be able to answer “What kind of breed is that?” At the dog park, I formed the image of a small sailboat (little dog) with a burly patron holding a huge key.

Get in the habit of turning anything you find hard to remember into a wild, bizarre, or attention-grabbing image.

7. Don’t sit on the couch all day.

A recent study of 82,872 volunteers found that participants aged 80 years or older who engaged in a moderate to high level of physical activity had a lower risk of dementia, compared with inactive adults aged 50 to 69 years.

Even a simple switch from sedentary inactivity (sitting down, a “never walk when you can drive” attitude) to active movement (standing, climbing stairs, walking a mile a day) made a difference.

Housework has also been linked to increased attention and memory scores and better sensory and motor function in older adults.

Dr Richard Restak, MD, is a neuroscientist and author of 20 books on the human brain, including “The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening Your Mind” Y “Think Smart: A Neuroscientist’s Prescription for Improving Your Brain’s Performance.” Currently, he is a Clinical Professor of Neurology at the George Washington Hospital University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. In 1992, Dr. Restak received the “Decade of the Brain Award” from the Chicago Neurosurgical Center.

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