A HEALTHY lifestyle is still one of the best memory supplements.

Maximizing the capacity of one’s memory might seem hard to do, but psychologists said sharpening the brain’s information storage system is not always complicated.

Ma. Claudette Agnes, chairperson of the Psychology Department of the College of Science, pointed to a healthy diet, particularly of fish and vegetables. The Omega-3 in fish, in particular, helps bridge the gap between the neurons in the brain causing a person to think clearly, she said.

Like eating vegetables, regular reading helps keep the mind active, said Naomi Rosales, a guidance counselor at the Faculty of Engineering.

“The brain could also be exercised and enhanced through mind games like crossword puzzles and Sudoku,” she said.

A study conducted by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in the United States showed that social relationship is a pre-requisite to an active memory. It concluded that people with more social connections have a less tendency of having memory loss.

“We now have mounting evidence that strong social networks can help to prevent declines in memory. As our society ages and has more and more older people, it will be important to promote their engagement in social and community life to maintain their well-being,” said Lisa Berkman, chair of the Department of Society, Human Development and Health of HSPH.

Proper intake of the combination of the herbs ginseng and Ginkgo biloba was also proven to help improve concentration and sharpen memory. Ginseng acts as an adaptogen, a stimulant which prevents psychological damage, while ginkgo is composed of flavanoids, a compound which prevents damage of neurons.

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“With every dose [of ginseng and ginkgo] there was improvement in the subjects’ ability to store, hold and retrieve information, and one dose caused a particularly dramatic improvement,” Dr. Andrew Scholey of the University of Northumbria said.

While some people believe that memory declines as people get older, Agnes said many factors have to be considered such as individual habits.

“People who are not managing their lives well are those who usually suffer from memory-related disorders,” she said.

Memory supplements claim they could help delay the progression of memory-related diseases. Agnes is not exactly sold to the idea.

“The supplements might work, but not all the time,” she said.

A recent research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease confirmed that walnuts help boost memory, showing that its antioxidants may help combat memory decline.

“Higher intakes of both total olive oil and the virgin variety of olive oil, coffee, walnuts, and wine were associated with better memory function and global cognition,” the research stated.

Countering the mentality that people are born with an “un-upgradable” memory, an experiment conducted by the neuroscientists of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) showed that stimulating a part of the brain can enhance the memory.

The entorhinal cortex (EC) is the part of the brain that leads to the hippocampus—another part of the brain that detects new stimuli and occurrences. EC is responsible for the processing of signals sent when the body sees or feels something.

According to Dr. Itzhak Fried of the David Geffen School of Medicine of UCLA, the stimulation should only be done during the learning process.

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The stimulation test was done to patients who already had electrodes, a device used to monitor brain activity, implanted in the brain.

Stress and other threats

Too much stress can bring damaging and adverse effects to both mind and body.

“Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies, because it can destroy brain cells and damage the hippocampus,” Agnes said.

According to Dr. Amy Arnsten of Yale Medical School, stress activates an enzyme in the body called protein kinase C (PKC), which damages short-term memory—the capacity of the brain to store information for a short period of time, usually in seconds.

Psychologist Tracey Shors of Rutgers University said there is a correlation existing between stress and memory.

According to Shors’ report, the degree of the effects of stress on memory depends mainly on the intensity and length of the event.

Rosales noted that overthinking and focusing too much on a stressful situation can weaken memory and the more frequent a person thinks about a stressful situation, the more disrupted his memory will be.

Rosales added that unhealthy lifestyle is one of the causes of memory impairment.

“Lack of use of one’s mind abates memory, too, because inactivity causes the mind to be too sloppy and laidback,” she said.

Excessive sugar intake may also cause the memory to decline as it damages the synapses, which connects brain cells that facilitate learning.

“Our study shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a neurosurgery professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information.

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