Your lifestyle, what you eat and drink and how you treat your body, affects your memory as well as your physical health and wellbeing. Here are five things to keep your mind and body sharp and healthy.
1. Manage stress. Daily stresses such as deadline pressures or petty arguments can distract and affect your ability to focus and recall; however, an ongoing sense of extreme anxiety can lead to memory impairment. If you don’t have a strategy in place for managing your stress, protecting your memory is one reason to get one. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and a “mindful” approach to living can all help.
2. Get a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep is essential for consolidating memories. The most common reason for poor sleep is insomnia—difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Unfortunately, many medicines used to treat insomnia can also impair memory and general brain function. That’s why it’s best to improve your sleep habits first and use medication only if those steps don’t help.
3. If you smoke, quit. Easier said than done, but if you need additional motivation, know that smokers have a greater degree of age-related memory loss and other memory problems than non smokers. People who smoke more than two packs of cigarettes a day have more than double the risk of developing dementia.
4. If you drink alcohol, do so moderately. Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk for memory loss and dementia. People with alcoholism have difficulty performing short-term memory tasks, such as memorizing lists. Another type of memory loss is called Korsakoff’s syndrome where, a long-term vitamin B1 deficiency combined with the toxic effects of alcohol on the brain can trigger sudden and dramatic amnesia. In some cases this memory loss is permanent, but if caught early, can be reversed to some degree.
5. Protect your brain from injury. Head trauma is a major cause of memory loss and increases the risk of developing dementia. Always use the appropriate gear during high-speed activities and contact sports. Car accidents are by far the most common cause of brain injury; wearing seat belts greatly reduces the chances of severe head injury. Wear a helmet when bicycling, riding on a motorcycle, in-line skating, and skiing.