According to the Harvard Medical School, the way you live, what
you eat and drink, and how you treat your body can affect your
memory just as much as your physical health and well-being.
In one of Harvard's latest health reports, it lists five things
you can do every day to keep both your mind and body sharp.
1. Manage your stress. The constant drumbeat of
daily stresses such as deadline pressures or petty arguments can
certainly distract you and affect your ability to focus and recall.
But the bigger problem is an ongoing sense of anxiety that 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. People who don't
sleep well at night tend to be more forgetful than people who sleep
soundly. A good night's sleep is essential for consolidating
memories. The most common reason for poor sleep is insomnia, which
can be defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
Unfortunately, many medicines used to treat insomnia also impair
memory and general brain function. That's why it's best to try
improving your sleep habits first and turn to medication only if
those steps don't help. If you do need sleep aids, use the lowest
dose for the shortest time needed to get your sleep back on
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 at midlife have more than double the risk of
developing dementia in old age compared with non-smokers. However,
those who stop smoking by midlife and those who smoke less than
half a pack a day have a similar risk of dementia as people who
have never smoked.
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 associated with alcohol use is called Korsakoff's
syndrome. In this condition, 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, it can be reversed to some
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. Wear a helmet when
bicycling, riding on a motorcycle, in-line skating, and skiing.
Wear seat belts when riding in motor vehicles. Car accidents are by
far the most common cause of brain injury, and wearing a seat belt
greatly reduces the chances of severe head injury.