By Alyssa Shaffer
Straining your brain to remember someone's name or where you left your wallet? Forgetting things can be a pesky problem, but it can get serious without the proper attention. Thankfully, a few simple tricks are all it takes to prevent those forgetful moments and get your memory in shape. Find out what you can start doing now. Photo by Fotolia.com
New research shows that older people who have higher levels of vitamins B, C, D and E in their blood have stronger memory and thinking skills. Make sure you're getting enough vitamin B 12 in particular (found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs and milk)-low levels of this vitamin have been linked to memory problems. Whenever possible, try to get these nutrients from food instead of pills. But if you're a vegetarian, over 50 years old and/or taking certain medications for diabetes or heartburn, ask your doctor about B 12 supplements, since you may be at a higher risk for a deficiency. On the flip side, avoid foods that contain trans fats (including fried foods and many packaged baked goods). Studies show that people with high levels of this dangerous fat had worse cognitive functioning.
Orly Avitzur, MD, fellow of the American Academy of Neurology
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The psychologist says...Play games
Try doing a word scramble, a crossword puzzle or Sudoku against the clock. Giving yourself a time limit challenges your brain's focus, speed and flexibility. Also choose hobbies that keep your mind engaged-painting, writing, playing board games-and do them regularly. Research shows that activities like these help keep your brain function strong throughout your lifetime.
Cynthia Green, PHD, author of 30 Days to Total Brain Health and president of Memory Arts, Montclair, NJ
The neuroscientist says...Take a brisk walk
Exercise triggers positive changes in your brain, including forging new connections between nerve cells, increasing blood flow and even creating new brain cells-all of which help strengthen your memory and problem-solving skills. A brisk half-hour walk every day can also lower your chances of developing dementia, since it helps keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check. Best of all, it's never too late to make a difference. Research shows that even longtime couch potatoes who started a regular exercise program experienced positive changes in brain function almost immediately.
Arthur F. Kramer, PHD, director, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Related: See 20 easy ways to burn more fat.