Everyone’s memory falters at one moment or another. Maybe we miss an appointment or a payment. We may lose track of our keys or our wallets, or forget a name or a face. Memory is far from perfect, and forgetting things now and again is harmless.
As we get older, these small memory lapses are no more harmful than when we are young, but the fear of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia makes each one more frightening.
There are common practices to keep your memory sharp at any age. Though memory and forgetfulness are often given more weight as we get older, having a sharp mind is always important.
Your memory is connected to every aspect of your life. How you take care of your body has a long-term impact on having a good memory and aging well. Each of these tips is helpful to anyone, not just those struggling or worried about memory loss.
Keeping a healthy diet, staying active, getting a good night’s sleep, and keeping a positive outlook are all ways to keep your memory healthy.
Eating a healthy diet helps keep the connections in your brain strong. A diet with plenty of healthy proteins, fruits, and vegetables and low in saturated fat and processed foods helps prevent many health problems. Following a diet like this can keep cognitive function from declining and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Staying active through exercising, yoga, or anything else has tremendous health benefits. Alongside physical benefits, exercise can improve your mood. There is evidence that staying active can assist cognitive functions like attention, decision making, and memory.
Getting healthy sleep affects our mood, our ability to process information and helps us store and solidify memories. There are many benefits to long-term healthy sleep.
Starting the day after a good night’s sleep allows us to better take in information and process it during the day, and a good night’s sleep at the end of it gives our brain time to strengthen connections that help store memories. These changes are unique to when we are sleeping.
Studying sleep and the importance of sleeping consistently is a topic that the medical field is very interested in. Our understanding of sleep and its impact on our memory will only expand as more research is concluded.
Staying positive and believing that you are in control of your memory function leads to better, longer-lasting memory. People who fall into despair, thinking that their memory is out of their control, are less likely to maintain or improve their memory skills.
This often couples with them living a less healthy lifestyle, and making them more likely to experience cognitive decline. Keeping a positive outlook is challenging, but working at it is important. There are many ways to help cultivate a positive outlook, like setting goals and finding activities that bring joy.
Alongside keeping the body healthy, keeping the mind active is associated with better mental function. At all ages, stimulating the mind with both formal and informal learning helps it stay sharp.
During our younger years, there are many more reasons to learn. School, university, and work take up many hours of many days. In the absence of those, staying active is very important.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people with more years of formal education are at lower risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Some research shows that having more years of education builds “cognitive reserve.” The idea of cognitive reserve is the brain’s ability to resist damaging brain changes and reduce the risk of memory failure.
The concept of cognitive reserve is seen to fluctuate over time and through several lifestyle factors. While a good education is important, it is just one way to keep your memory strong.
Formal education is not the only way to keep your mind active and strong. Learning of any kind stimulates your mind and preserves its brain connections. Pursuing a new skill or hobby, reading, working, socializing, and many more activities are great for keeping your mind sharp.
It is never too late to start prioritizing learning a new skill, and that is reflected in its effect on your brain.
Playing card and board games are effective in keeping your mind active. Games like chess and backgammon, crosswords, and jigsaw puzzles are excellent ways to stay mentally active and are easy games to play on a regular basis.
It is never too early to start incorporating a mentally stimulating game into your daily or weekly routine, but it is never too late, either.
Clutter serves two negative purposes — it adds a level of anxiety to your life as well as making it harder to keep track of everything. Physical clutter makes it easier to lose your phone or keys. Having to focus on tasks like that makes it harder to concentrate on the information you want to remember.
On a similar token, keeping appointments and commitments organized in a paper or digital planner often reduces the stress of missing them. Keeping your activities and your home organized is an important step towards keeping your memory strong.
Memory is a foundational aspect of healthy aging. These tips are applicable at any point in your life and hopefully will help you keep your mind sharp through the years. If your memory or the memory of a loved one ever begins to deteriorate rapidly, contact a medical professional for examination and assistance.