Maximize Your Memory—How a few simple tricks can boost your brainpower

July 2012 View more


Can’t find your wallet? Can’t remember your password? Forgot someone’s name? You’re not alone. As we age, the brain goes through a natural process of decline. However, your mental capacity can improve with appropriate and adequate stimulation. Studies show that the combination of physical and mental exercise stimulates the brain. Surrounding brain cells grow stronger and resist the affects of aging. Try these simple tips to maximize your memory.


Studies show that if you keep your mind active, you can avoid mental aging. Think of it as a cardio workout to improve your brain. ‘Brain aerobics’ can increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain. This is the key to keeping your brain in peak condition. Puzzles and games do help. “Mental stimulation by keeping the mind active strengthens the connections between brain cells you already have and makes new connections in your brain,” said Dr. Beth Borosh, Neuropsychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.


Limit distractions, like electronics, when trying to learn new information. Avoid multi-tasking. Work on one project at a time until it’s completed. Keep personal belongings like your wallet, keys, and cell phone in the same place in your house or office. Keep to-do lists current, and check off items you’ve completed.


Staying in shape lowers your risk for obesity, depression, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. Dr. Borosh says just 30 minutes of cardio three to four times a week is a great way to keep your brain healthy. “This improves blood flow to the brain and supplies the brain with oxygen and helps prevent death of brain cells. Ultimately, this leads to optimizing our memory and thinking.”


Stress is a fact of life. Some level of stress can be a great motivator to finish a task or reach a goal. However, if stress levels get out of hand, cortisol levels increase in the brain. “Chronic and increased levels of cortisol can cause death of brain cells and therefore has a negative impact on memory and thinking,” said Dr. Borosh. Realize you can’t do it all, and carve out down time with family and friends.


A healthy diet may be as good for your brain as it is for your heart. Search out foods rich in antioxidants. Registered Dietitian Jennifer Ventrelle at Rush University Medical Center says food should be fuel for our bodies, just like gas in a car. She says starting each day with a good breakfast is the way to go. “Research shows breakfast improves alertness and concentration, maintains energy throughout the day, helps improve mood, and prevents overeating later in the day. What you eat for breakfast can dictate energy levels for the rest of the day.” What you drink counts, too. Not enough water or too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss.

Brain Exercises


Work your mind and your body every day!

  • Go for a nice walk and sing your favorite song.
  • Volunteer some of your time.
  • Power walk and chat with a friend along the way.
  • Memorize shopping lists & shop by memory.
  • Do a crossword puzzle & spend a couple hours each day on a hobby.
  • Read a book and discuss it with a friend.
  • Read a book while riding an exercise bike.


Turn this magazine upside down, and read it out loud for ten minutes. This takes extra concentration and focus. It’s a visual workout, a verbal workout, and a perceptual workout, all at once.