People pay all sorts of money and spend oodles of time on games, supplements and training designed to boost memory. But the simplest way to beef up your brain is to up your intake of whole, healthy foods.
In a new study published in the June issue of International Psychogeriatrics, researchers found healthy eating and habits linked to better memory across all adult age groups, even those under 40.
The data comes from a poll of 18,552 U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 99, who were asked about their diet, smoking and exercise habits. They also self-reported on their memory capabilities.
Surprisingly, about 14% of the youngest group (ages 18 to 39) reported having memory problems.
“Memory issues were to be expected in the middle-aged and older groups, but not in younger people,” lead study author Gary Small, director of UCLA’s Longevity Center, told USA Today.
About 22% of middle-age adults (ages 40 to 59) and 26% of older adults (60+) reported memory problems, also.
Across age groups, however, those who followed a healthy diet, exercised regularly and avoided cigarettes were less likely to experience memory issues. Respondents who engaged in any one of these healthy behaviors were 21% less likely to report memory problems as those who didn’t.
These findings reinforce the importance of a healthy lifestyle at all ages in order to keep our brains healthy, said Small.
We think of memory loss and cognitive decline as being a problem for older and middle-aged adults, but it’s actually an accumulative process that can start quite young. If you don’t want to lose brainpower (and your car keys constantly) as you age, it’s important to start creating and practicing healthy habits now.