Flexing Your Mind's Muscle

Nelson Dellis is on top of his game and climbing to new heights--literally.
By Cara Lucas

This year's winner of the USA Memory Championships (and last year’s as well!) proves that both mental and physical prowess do indeed go hand in hand.

The USA Memory Championship uses its platform to empower Americans to develop healthy, beautiful minds by adjusting simple lifestyle factors. These factors include diet and nutrition, physical health, mental engagement, and social well being.

At this event, mental athletes of all ages sit at rows of tables and compete in timed categories that consist of name and face recall, as well as speed memorization of numbers, a deck of cards, and a poem. As the athletes makes their way through each event, judges award them on a point system determined by the speed and accuracy in which they complete the tasks. As competitors are weeded out, it leaves a single victor as champion.

The 27-year-old mental athlete works out both his brain and his legs as he journeys up some of the highest mountains in the world on behalf his nonprofit organization “Climb for Memory,” which aims to raise both awareness and monetary funding for Alzheimer’s disease research.

Inspired by his beloved late grandmother who passed away from Alzheimer’s, Dellis became motivated to protect his own memory and keep his mind sharp. What better way to honor his grandmother and increase Alzheimer’s awareness than to compete for a cause? He now dedicates his life to advocate for a lifestyle that promotes brain health and regular mental stimulation, and it has paid off.

This year, for the second year in a row, he took the championship by storm.

“This year I won all of the four morning events—[I memorized] 162 names and faces in 15 minutes, 303 digits in 5 minutes, a deck of cards in one minute and 27 seconds, and 233 points for poetry memorization,” says Dellis. “Compared to last year where I earned 134 points for names and faces, got 248 digits, a deck of cards in 63 seconds, and 189 points for poetry, I improved in most everything. This has been the same trend every year since I started in 2009.”

How do his training methods work?

“I mountaineer,” explains Dellis. “Mountaineering is more like high-altitude hiking on glaciated terrain. I do train my memory at high-altitude, but I also train all of the events numerous times a day with strict time constraints. I typically add some noise or distractions to my training sessions. That is the hardest thing to deal with in a competition, so I try to make it present when I train.”

You don’t have to climb Mt. Everest to boost your brain, though. On top of the actual training, Dellis employs some of Fotuhi’s recommended strategies to help his memory. He gets plenty of sleep, exercises, practices methods to reduce stress, and eats foods that stimulate his brain.

“In terms of eating right, I try not to eat sugars and junk food, and I eat a lot of antioxidants and items containing DHA, a form of omega-3, such as fatty fish,” Dellis says. “However, because a lot of foods don't provide the recommended daily amount of DHA (220mg/DAILY) we need for positive brain health, I take the BrainStrong supplement with life's DHA, a vegetarian form of DHA. It definitely keeps my mind sharp.”

To learn more about Nelson Dellis and Climb For Memory, visit climbformemory.com.