Memory loss is one of the more frightening aspects of aging. Fortunately, recent research shows there are many steps you can take to prevent or slow memory loss and keep your brain healthy.
Consider adopting some preventive lifestyle changes that may help you maintain a strong memory for years to come. You can remember these strategies by referring to the "Five E's": Exercise, Education, Eliminating Smoking, Eating Right, and Early to Bed.
Researchers have suggested several ways that regular physical activity may play a role in keeping your brain healthy and your memory strong:
- Animal studies have indicated that exercise increases substances in the brain (neurotrophins) that nourish your brain cells, and may help to provide protection from stroke.
- It helps reduce your risk of developing health conditions that can lead to memory loss, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stroke.
- It's beneficial to your lungs. Harvard Medical School reports that older people with strong mental acuity also frequently have strong lung function.
Therefore, try to build moderate exercise into your daily routine, setting aside specific time for it. Studies suggest that it need not be extreme but should be consistent. Try walking around the neighborhood, exercising in a class or with a video, or committing to a swimming or biking routine.
Harvard Medical School reports that education level is the single characteristic that corresponds most closely to strong mental functioning in the elderly. Some experts believe that you can help keep your memory strong through advanced education because it helps you stay mentally active. But even smaller efforts at learning--such as taking on a new hobby or playing mentally stimulating games--may be beneficial.
Smoking can interfere with memory in several ways:
- By increasing your risk for diseases that contribute to memory loss, such as stroke, high blood pressure, and depression
- By damaging your lungs, since proper lung function is a characteristic of strong memories in old age
- By depriving your brain of oxygen, constricting blood vessels and possibly damaging neurons
Research shows that nonsmokers remember names and faces better than smokers do--so put down the pack to prevent memory loss.
Maintaining a healthy diet rich in nutrients may be a factor in preserving brain function and memory. Fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats from whole grains, fish, and nuts may be beneficial in protecting against diseases and maintaining brain health.
It's also important to maintain a healthy weight by avoiding extra calories. This may also lower your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which can harm your memory.
Early to Bed
Studies suggest that six to eight hours of sleep a night is ideal for memory consolidation and overall health. Quality of sleep may be even more important than amount of sleep when it comes to memory. To improve your sleeping habits:
Keep to a regular sleep routine by hitting the sack at the same time nightly. You should also try to awaken at the same time every morning.
- Avoid exercising a few hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day.
- Don't take naps during the day.
Remember the "Five E's"
It's never too early or too late to try to slow or prevent memory loss. Instead of seeing memory loss as an inevitable part of aging, use the preventive steps, strategies, and healthy habits of the "Five E's"–– Exercise, Education, Eliminating Smoking, Eating Right, and Early to Bed. All of these habits go hand-in-hand with having a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle. By simply choosing to develop these five positive practices now, you may be able to keep your memory strong for years to come.