5 Surprising Ways To Help Your Memory

2 minute read

A recent study alleviated fears that statins—taken by 1 in 4 adults over the age of 40—cause memory loss. But how do you strengthen recall in general? We asked Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Memosyn Neurology Institute, to share the latest research-backed insights. “People don’t appreciate that such simple factors have an impact on your brain health, but they do,” he says. “They’re more powerful than any medicine you can take.”

1. Have a sense of purpose in life. In one study published earlier this year in the journal Stroke, scientists studied autopsied adult brains and found that the odds of having a stroke were reduced by half or older people who had a high sense of purpose, compared to people who reported a low sense of purpose.

2. Go dancing. It’s a brain-building triple threat, he says: physical activity protects the brain, learning lets it grow, and socialization helps it thrive. (Fotuhi recommends the tango.)

3. Learn something new. Pre-GPS, cabbies had to learn their cities’ streets and traffic patterns—a challenging mental exercise that over their career actually grew the part of the brain associated with spatial memory, one study found.

4. Take omega-3s fatty acids. The combo of DHA and EPA increase blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation and help repair neurons, Fotuhi says. His research also suggests that DHA may slow cognitive decline.

5. Exercise. In a study published in the journal PNAS, people who exercised every day for a year had 2% growth in their hippocampus—a part of the brain that plays a role in short- and long-term memory—while people who merely stretched saw shrinkage. Increasing blood flow to the brain helps it grow, Fotuhi says. “You need to be physically fit below your neck in order to have a fit brain above your neck.”

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Write to Mandy Oaklander at mandy.oaklander@time.com