7 ways to improve your memory
When perimenopause hits one of the first things you may notice is that your memory is not as good as it once was. Do you find yourself walking into a room and forgetting why you were there? Or forgetting where you put your keys? For those women who are still working, it can lead them to consider giving up on the career that they have built up over many years.
The change in hormone levels during perimenopause can impact your memory as the brain recalibrates itself to the new normal. However, there are also other factors that also impact memory. Here are 7 modifiable factors that you can leverage to improve your memory:
3. Low fat diet
4. Lack of energy
5. Nutrient deficiencies
6. Poor circulation
By addressing each of these 7 factors, it is possible to see improvements in memory and cognitive function, even during perimenopause.
1. Reduce stress
Research has shown that chronic stress has a huge impact on the brain. The hippocampus which is involved in memory formation has been shown to shrink during prolonged periods of stress (cortisol). Stress management is therefore essential to help support memory and cognitive function. Breathing exercises, yoga, spending time in nature, movement, sleep, a healthy diet can all help reduce stress however it is also important to address the sources of stress. Reducing stress triggers is often easier said than done as they typically include work, relationships, family, finances. However, you can reduce some of this stress by setting boundaries and being firm with them. Learning to say no, asking for help and taking time for self-care are hugely powerful ways to reducing stress. Examining your values and living by them can reduce any internal conflict that may be causing you stress without you even realising it.
2. Reduce inflammation
Increasing levels of inflammation can have a negative impact on the brain and how well it functions. Oestrogen is an anti-inflammatory hormone and as levels of oestrogen decrease, it becomes harder to keep inflammation under control. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce the inflammatory burden and help reduce inflammation. Identifying and eliminating foods that you may react to is the key and reducing intake of common inflammatory foods such as dairy, gluten and sugar maybe a good first step. At the same time increase intake of anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish, leafy greens, colourful fruit and veg and use plenty of herbs and spices when cooking to help dampen down inflammation.
3. Increase intake of healthy fats
Dietary fat is essential for brain health as the dry weight of the brain is 60% fat. Following a low fat diet for long periods of time, may lead to low availability of the building blocks required to build a healthy brain. So for a healthy brain include plenty of healthy fats such as omega-3 fats found in oily fish, flaxseeds and walnuts as well as monounsaturated fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados.
4. Optimise energy production
The brain is the most energy intensive organ in the body, using 20% of the total energy requirements of the body despite only being 2% of the weight. Fluctuations in the supply of energy to the brain can therefore have a huge impact on how well the brain functions. Glucose is the primary fuel source for the brain cells and this is supplied from our diet. However, those foods high in sugar, whilst giving a quick sugar high and energy boost, then go on to leave us low in energy and depleted leading to brain fog. Eating protein with each meal can help to ensure a sustained supply of energy, as well as avoiding those high sugar, refined and processed foods that cause our energy levels to swing from high to low like a pendulum.
5. Avoid nutrient deficiencies
Energy is produced in organelles within the cell called mitochondria. If the mitochondria do not have enough of the nutrients required to convert the food we eat into energy, this process becomes inefficient. These nutrients include B vitamins (found in wholegains, eggs, legumes, avocadoes, meat, poultry and fish), magnesium (found in dark chocolate of more than 70%, seeds, avocados, nuts, legumes, leafy greens). The mitochondria are also highly susceptible to damage and require high levels of anti-oxidants to keep them in tip top shape. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables are the best sources of anti-oxidants.
The decline in oestrogen that occurs as you approach menopause is also associated with a decline the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is essential for memory. However, increasing intake of the nutrient choline can help to mitigate this decline and many women do not achieve the recommended daily intake of choline which is found in fish, eggs and liver.
6. Boost blood circulation
Oxygen and the glucose needed to fuel the brain are carried to the brain via the bloodstream. Poor circulation results in poor delivery of these essential nutrients. Circulation can be improved by decreasing caffeine intake as caffeine causes blood vessels to constrict, making them narrower and reducing their capacity to carry blood. Exercise has been shown to improve circulation as well as consuming nitrate rich foods such as beetroot, celery, carrots and leafy greens which help blood vessels relax and expand, boosting circulation in the brain where blood vessels are tiny.
7. Reduce toxic load
The brain tissue is particularly sensitive to damage from toxins. Whilst totally avoiding toxins is impossible, reducing your toxic load by reducing or eliminating alcohol and switching to natural cosmetic and cleaning products can reduce the exposure of the brain to toxins whilst including brassica vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, radishes) as well as protein in your daily diet can help support the liver to neutralise and remove toxins from the body.
As you can see there are a number of ways to help improve your memory. Dietary goals include eating plenty of colourful fruit and veg, leafy greens, protein whilst avoiding high sugar foods, caffeine and alcohol and ensuring you are getting adequate nutrients for brain health, in particular B vitamins, magnesium and choline whilst lifestyle goals include movement, time in nature as well as setting boundaries and prioritising your own self-care.