If you’re still looking to set a New Year’s resolution, we’ve got a good one for you – building your hippocampus.
The two thumb-sized structures found in the center of the brain are critical to our ability to learn and remember, while possessing the unique ability to generate new neurons every day.
As your brain’s memory centre, it’s where short-term memory is turned into long-term memory. It’s also the region of your brain that can start to decline rapidly when we age – especially if you regularly experience stress and don’t take care of your health.
The good news? Research shows that you can actually ramp up the production of neurons above and beyond what our hippocampus normally produces.
The best way to do this? Good ol’ fashioned exercise. In fact, studies show that people who exercise regularly and are physically fit have a much bigger hippocampus.
“The more you walk, the bigger your hippocampus will get and the less would be your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Majid Fotuhi, a Harvard and Johns Hopkins-trained neurologist and neuroscientist. “One study showed that walking one mile a day lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 48%.”
No surprise that diet also plays an important role in nourishing our hippocampal neurons, including eating foods high in omega‑3 fatty acids, such as olive oil, salmon and nuts, or by taking DHA and EPA supplements. Research shows that higher blood levels of these fatty acids, which are the building blocks of neurons, is associated with larger hippocampus size, better memory and a much lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Stress reduction and meditation have also been shown to substantially expand the volume of hippocampus, along with learning a new language or challenging one’s brain by learning new facts.
“Yet another way to grow the very part of your brain that is critical for our ability to keep your memories alive for a lifetime and stay sharp as we get older,” Fotuki says.
So what are you waiting for? It’s a new decade – and a new chance to build your brainpower.
Noesis delivers neuroleadership consulting and training to organizations handling everyday change and major transformation initiatives. We help our Fortune 500 clients scientifically improve leadership.