This is a guest post by Sarah Rexman.
If you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s true for your muscles, which atrophy over time if you don’t exercise and strength train. It’s also true for your brain, which will struggle to retain memory if you don’t exercise it and treat your body well.
There is no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are things you can do to strengthen your cognitive function to protect and preserve your memory in an effort to prevent the onset of these disorders.
1. Eat Fat
More specifically, eat Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats — found in walnuts and fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and cod — help to improve neural function. Studies have shown that omega-3s have a direct impact on brain functions like decision-making, concentration, mood, and even memory. Get a regular dose of these healthy fats by eating foods that contain them or by taking a supplement to promote a healthy brain and memory.
2. Get Lots of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are nature’s miracle foods. They fight inflammation in the body, helping to reverse or slow aging, disease, and decline in cognitive function. Research has shown that antioxidants can help slow the impairment of memory, specifically.
Get your daily dose from fresh sources such as blueberries, strawberries – any type of berries – and green tea.
3. Don’t Skimp on Carbs
Sure Atkins and the Paleo Diet may be all the rage for losing weight, but they won’t help you protect your memory. The brain needs sugars to function at its optimum level, and depriving it of these sugars leads to a breakdown in its functioning.
You don’t need to start eating bags of Skittles — processed sugars create a whole host of other health problems — but you should be consuming healthy amounts of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, and legumes.
Your brain is a greedy organ. Just like it needs a lot of sugar to keep doing its work, it also needs a constant supply of blood and oxygen. Regular exercise keeps your brain supplied with the steady flow of blood and oxygen it needs to perform at optimum levels — and to combat the cognitive decline that accompanies aging.
You don’t need to run marathons to get the benefits of exercise. Simply staying active or engaging in a formal exercise routine for 30 minutes, three to five days a week, should be enough to help you protect your memory.
5. Reduce Stress
Stress is a silent killer. It has a negative impact on every part of your body and can lead to the development of disease. Studies show that acute or chronic stress has a direct impact on your memory, as well.
Finding ways to reduce or eliminate stress will help you to preserve your memory in the long term. Find ways to cut back on your responsibilities or engage in stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing or exercise.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Did you ever pull an all-nighter in college? And how did you feel the next day? You probably felt groggy, confused, unable to concentrate. And you almost certainly didn’t do as good on that exam or presentation as you had hoped.
When you get the deep sleep that you need each night, your brain is able to do the work it needs to repair itself and to create new connections. Without that sleep, your brain suffers. You start to suffer a loss of cognitive ability, including memory.
Be sure that you are getting your 7 to 9 hours of sleep each and every night. It will help you preserve your memory and prolong your life.
7. Practice “Brain Games”
Your brain can’t bench press a dumbbell, but it can still get its exercise. Play “brain games” such as logic puzzles to keep your mind sharp. Crossword puzzles, sudoku, logic puzzles, and others can all help you to keep your synapses firing. In the process. You’ll strengthen your mind, which will protect against memory loss.
As you age, it becomes ever more important to practice healthy behaviors such as eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Not only do these practices help you to stay healthy, they also help you to preserve and protect your memory.
Author Bio: Sarah Rexman is the main researcher and writer for bedbugs.org. Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Florida State, with a degree in environmental science. Her current focus for the site involves researching what to spray bed bugs with following a bed bug inspection.
Credit: Image courtesy of Ben Grantham via Flickr