The natural decline of our memory is a fact of life. The hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory, loses five per cent of its nerve cells with each decade that passes. As we age, the production of acetylcholine also slows down; this is a vital neurotransmitter for memory and learning. 

Based on this knowledge, scientists used to think that a person’s memory and cognitive abilities would peak in middle age, and then slowly go downhill from there. However, more recent research has found that adults of all ages are able to form new neural pathways in their brain, and that anyone, with some effort and dedication, can boost their memory. Here’s how you can too.

1. Exercise your brain

A brain workout doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. It’s all about exercising that muscle, helping to build its strength. The important thing here is to do something new. If we always follow the same old neural pathways, the less inclined our brain will be to make new ones. Learn something new, set yourself a challenge and see what a difference it can make.

2. Exercise your body too

Aerobic exercise is good for the brain, so anything that gets your heart pumping will help to boost your grey matter too. If you’re not up to jogging or jumping on the exercise bike, a brisk walk or swim is just as good. Even stretching those muscles in chair yoga will help reset your brain and keep it primed for learning.

3. Get enough sleep

More than 95 per cent of us require at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night, some up to 9 hours. Skimping on sleep can cause problems with memory, creativity, problem solving and more. When we sleep, our memories are consolidated and organised, so sleep really is crucial to maintaining good memory recall.

4. Get social

Research shows that social connections are important to brain health. Having meaningful friendships and a strong support network keep us mentally and emotionally alive. Having an active social life can slow the rate of memory decline, so get out there and have fun with your friends.

5. Say no to stress

Chronic stress can cause damage to the hippocampus, and is known to destroy brain cells. People who experience high levels of stress can struggle with early onset memory loss, so managing stress levels is crucial. Know when to say no, take breaks when you need them, and set a healthy balance between work and play to keep stress in check.

6. Laugh

Laughter, they say, is the best medicine, and in the case of brain health, it’s absolutely true. Laughter engages with multiple areas across the brain, and encourages the release of happy chemicals which can help form new neural pathways. Spend time with young people, watch funny movies, and remind yourself to lighten up whenever you feel too serious.

7. Eat right

Getting your five a day can be just as good for your mental health as it is for your physical. Look for foods rich in brain boosting omega 3, such as seafood, spinach and broccoli. Limit your intake of saturated fats, and replace a cup of coffee a day with a green tea to slow brain ageing. 

When people keep their minds active with games, puzzles and other supportive strategies, they could slow down their rate of mental decline. This could help to stave off dementia for longer, although studies are ongoing to prove this link. 

At Fernhill House we regularly offer our residents opportunities to challenge themselves, to engage in new activities and to enjoy new experiences. From excursions to places of interest, to exercise classes and craft activities, we’re all about encouraging engagement to keep our brains active.