• improve memory

    8 Things to Do to Improve Your Memory

    Nearly everyone struggles with their memory from time to time. Whether you are a college student preparing for a big exam, a professional trying to stay sharp for your job, or a senior who wants to preserve their capabilities, working to improve your memory is always a smart move.

    The human brain is surprisingly adaptable, and it can be taught to be more effective when it comes to retaining new information and recalling memories. Even a few simple changes can be surprisingly effective. If you want to improve your memory, here are eight things you can do.

    1. Try Meditation

    Memory involves more than one process. Initially, new information is held in your short-term memory, a sort of temporary storehouse for incoming details. These memories are quickly accessible while you are working with those ideas. But, if they won’t be beneficial beyond the moment, they often aren’t retained.

    Meditation gives you the ability to enhance your working memory. You can retain more information in the short-term and recall it with greater ease. In some cases, just two weeks of regular meditation can have an enormous impact.

    meditation

    2. Get Enough Rest

    When you are highly stressed or overly tired, your memory often falters. By getting enough rest, you are giving your brain a break, ensuring that fatigue doesn’t impact memory formation and recall.

    First and foremost, you need to make time for restful sleep. Memory consolidation typically occurs when a person is sleeping, allowing short-term memories to get stored as long-term memories, and giving the mind time to process what you’ve experienced.

    Precisely how many hours of sleep a person needs can vary from one person to the next, though aiming for seven to eight hours is usually a good place to start. However, even naps can help with memory consolidation, so adding in a short one during the day isn’t a bad idea.

    Secondly, schedule in breaks when you are doing tasks that involve dealing with a lot of new information so that you can give your brain a rest. For example, after doing an activity that is going to be taxing for your memory for 30 minutes, set it down for five to 10 minutes and do some relaxing deep breathing, fix yourself a cup of tea, or do something that doesn’t require much brainpower. Then, you can return to the activity for another 30 minutes, repeating the cycle until you are done.

    3. Don’t Forget to Exercise

    Regular exercise is known to help with memory recall and can also enhance spatial memory. By making time for workouts, you aren’t just ensuring your body is in good shape, but your mind as well.

    Either 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity during a week is a good target, according to the Mayo Clinic. The nature of the aerobic exercises matters less than the intensity you workout at, so choose your favorite ones to make sure you enjoy the activity while you are doing it.

    exercise

    4. Eat (and Drink) Right

    When you’re hungry, it’s usually hard to concentrate. By eating at the right times, you can make sure that you have the ability to focus, making it easier to form new memories.

    However, you also need to make sure that you eat a balanced diet. Your body needs calories, minerals, vitamins, and water to function correctly. If your diet is deficient in vital nutrients, your caloric intake is too low, or you’re dehydrated, your memory will suffer.

    Aim to consume at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day. Select a variety of plant foods to ensure you get the right nutrients too. When possible, avoid highly processed foods and drinks, and limit your sugar intake. Also, make sure to consume enough water so that you can stay hydrated.

    eat right

    5. Repeat What You Learn Out Loud

    Repetition can be the key to memory formation. Every time you repeat something, you are making it easier for your brain to integrate the information into your memory.

    Repeating what you learn out loud can be an effective way to aid memory formation. For example, if someone tells you their name, say it back to them. You can do the same thing with information like addresses and meeting times.

    6. Make Time for Friends and Family

    Humans are social creatures. While focusing on “serious” activities might seem like the best option for improving memory, making time to have some fun with friends and family is also important.

    When you have strong relationships, you are enhancing the health of your brain. Active social lives can potentially slow memory decline, and having a good time reduces stress, something else that can harm your memory if it is left unchecked. Plus, socializing is great for your emotional health, too, which is a bonus.

    friends

    7. Eliminate Distractions

    When you need to learn something new, distractions are the enemy. Whether this involves noisy children, loud coworkers, sounds from a radio, or social media notifications, anything that breaks your attention from the task at hand is hindering your ability to form lasting memories.

    Ideally, seek out a space where you can eliminate distractions when you need to focus. Also, turn off any smartphone or computer notifications that would usually attract your attention, ensuring that a new post or email doesn’t disrupt you while you concentrate.

    8. See a Doctor

    If your memory has declined in a noticeable way over a fairly short period, you need to see a doctor. There are many health problems that can lead to memory issues, and treating the condition could lead to memory improvements.

    While Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the conditions most commonly associated with memory loss, heart disease, diabetes, ADHD, hormone imbalances, and even certain medications can also have an impact on your cognitive function. Certain mental health concerns – like depression, ADHD, anxiety, and others – may also impact memory formation.

    By treating the underlying medical condition, your memory may naturally improve. As a result, speaking with a doctor is critical to ensure you receive the proper treatment if it is necessary.

  • Bilberry Fruit: The Wild-Growing Superfood

    Vaccinium myrtillus, the bilberry, is a small plant with a long history. Its fruits are considered to be a superfood and have several available forms and many ways to be used in the kitchen. See what the bilberry fruit is and what significant impact it might have on your health.

    Description and History

    Bilberries — also known as whortleberries, European blueberries, or huckleberries (to name a few) — are close cousins to blueberries but are slightly smaller. Like blueberries, they are sweet with a hint of acidity. Bilberry shrubs grow only 6 to 12 inches tall and are native to northern Europe, though now you can find them growing wild in the Rocky Mountains, European and Asian regions, and other parts of the Arctic and subarctic Northern Hemisphere.

    These sweet, deep-blue berries (and sometimes the leaves of the shrub) have been used since the Middle Ages as medicine for diarrhea, scurvy, infections, burns, diabetes, and improving vision. In the 1700s, herbalists became better acquainted with the medicinal uses of bilberries and treated bladder stones, scurvy, and coughs with them. The story of Royal Air Force pilots consuming bilberry jam for improved night vision during World War II sparked the current interest in the fruits. They are still used to treat cardiovascular conditions, diarrhea, urinary tract infections, eye problems, and diabetes. Ongoing studies seek to determine their usefulness in treating and preventing cancer, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and liver and kidney disease.

    The bilberry fruit’s wide range of uses is little wonder, as it is a rich source of an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which gives the fruit its beautiful color. Not only is it rich in antioxidants, but it also contains tannins and flavonoids; vitamins A, B1, B2, C, E, and K; and minerals like chromium, manganese, zinc, and iron.

    Health Benefits

    Although there have only been a few high-quality clinical trials on the benefits of bilberry fruit, this superfood still has several centuries of traditional medical use to back it. Consuming bilberries can produce the following effects:

    • Improved vision. Anthocyanin antioxidants and vitamin E found in bilberries stimulates the production of rhodopsin, a pigment in the eyes that aids adjustment to light changes. One study found that these same compounds were highly successful in halting cataract progression. [1]
    • Cardiovascular health. Compounds in bilberry fruits can prevent platelet accumulation, strengthen capillaries, and improve circulation. Flavonoids in the leaves of the plant may be helpful for improving circulation in people with diabetes (which, in turn, promotes their retinal health).
    • Reduced inflammation. Anthocyanin and tannins act as anti-inflammatory compounds, helping to treat diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, mouth or throat irritation, and the effects of aging. The fruit’s anti-inflammatory properties also make it practical for preventing cancers such as leukemia, colon cancer, and breast cancer. It may be the most effective berry for cancer cell inhibition [1].
    • Control of diabetes. Bilberry fruits remain the most popular herbal option for diabetes treatment in Europe [2]. They can help relieve symptoms such as poor circulation and may help stimulate insulin production.
    • Improved cognition. One study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry concluded that the bilberry’s phenolic compounds might reduce symptoms in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s [3].
    • Liver and kidney health. By raising glutathione and vitamin C levels and lowering nitric oxide, bilberry fruits can improve liver health. They have also been reported to support kidney function and halt kidney failure by aiding the excretion of heavy metals and by contributing to the maintenance of creatinine, urea, and nitrogen levels in the blood.

    Be aware that, as with all medicinal products, you may experience some side effects from bilberry supplements. Allergic reactions to bilberry fruits and supplements have occurred, and consuming high concentrations of bilberry products can cause toxicity. Taking these supplements before and after surgery or while you are pregnant or nursing may have harmful effects. Finally, interference with blood-thinning medications can slow clotting, and interactions with diabetes medications may cause hypoglycemia.

    Available Forms

    Bilberry fruits are available in dried or powdered form. Sometimes the leaves are dried for tea, but that’s not for long-term use. Supplements are also available as tablets, capsules, and drops. Typical doses include:

    • 20 to 60 grams of dried berries daily
    • 160 milligrams of extract twice daily
    • 1 to 2 teaspoons of mashed berries or finely chopped dried leaves as tea.

    These products and supplements can be purchased online or at health food stores. Bilberry fruits are also available in their fresh form when either harvested in the wild or homegrown. Bilberry seedlings can be purchased and grown with exceptional ease. Just plant them in full sun (in colder climates) or partial shade (in warmer climates). Although they need protection from excessive heat, they will thrive with little care and in poor soil. You can harvest the berries in the fall and eat them raw, dry them, or turn them into tea, pie filling, juice, or jam. Try one or more of the following recipes.

    Recipes

    Dried Bilberries

    Spread bilberries on a sheet pan in a single layer. Dry in a 200 degree (F) oven for 6 to 8 hours, checking frequently.

    Bilberry Juice

    You need:

    • 1 pound bilberries
    • 5 ounces superfine sugar

    Add bilberries and 1 cup of water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until the berries burst. Strain through a muslin-lined sieve. Return to saucepan, add sugar, bring to a boil, and simmer for a few minutes. Store in a sterilized bottle.

    Dilute to taste with hot or cold water, or with sparkling water, for a refreshing drink. The syrup is also good in salad dressings or over ice cream.

    Bilberry Pie

    You need:

    • 1 pound shortcrust pastry (homemade or bought)
    • 1 pound bilberries
    • 3 ½ ounces of superfine sugar
    • Butter (for greasing the pie dish)

    Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (F) and grease the pie dish. Combine the berries and sugar, and set them aside for 10 to 15 minutes. Prepare your pie crust as needed.

    Assemble the pie by placing one crust in the bottom of the dish, spooning in the filling, and covering the top with a second crust. Crimp the edges of the top and bottom crusts and cut a slit in the top crust for steam. (At this point, the pie can be frozen.) Bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes (allow five extra minutes if baking from frozen).

    When you remove the pie from the oven, you can sprinkle it with some sugar and allow it to cool slightly. Serve with ice cream or, more traditionally, clotted cream.

    Bilberries, the close cousins of blueberries, are tasty morsels with potent anti-inflammatory properties. Give them a try and experience these and other health benefits of this wild-growing superfood.

    References

    [1] Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects (2nd ed.), “Chapter 4 Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.)” CRC Press/Taylor & Francis 2011

    [2] Acta Diabetologica, “What herbalists suggest to diabetic patients in order to improve glycemic control? Evaluation of scientific evidence and potential risks” September 2004

    [3] Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, “Anthocyanin-enriched bilberry and blackcurrant extracts modulate amyloid precursor protein processing and alleviate behavioral abnormalities in the APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease” January 2013

    Sources

    Foodfacts.mercola.com, “What is Bilberry Good For?”

    Gardening Know How, “Bilberry Plant Information: Learn About Bilberry Cultivation And Care”

    Lavender and Lovage, “Mum’s Bilberry Plate Pie and Clotted Cream”

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Bilberry”

    Organicfacts.com, “8 Surprising Benefits of Bilberry”

    Science Direct, “Bilberry”

    SweedishFood.com, “Blueberry Cordial”

    Web MD, “Bilberry”

    Wonder How To, “Dry Fruit in Your Oven – No Dehydrator Required”