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No matter what your age, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your memory sharp
Contrary to popular belief, memory loss is not a normal part of aging. No matter how old you are, there are things you can do starting right now to protect your memory and even enhance your cognition.
Just like any other muscle in your body, you have to train your brain it if you want to keep it functioning at a high level. These steps will help improve your memory.
One of the best things you can do for your brain is to get regular exercise, and there’s no easier way to get your heartrate going than taking a walk. Research has found that walking at least six miles a week can prevent brain shrinkage and memory loss.
Eating fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants (e.g., blueberries) contribute to the development of healthy cells, and foods abundant in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., salmon, flax seeds) boost cognition. Flavonoids (which are in many fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains, soy foods and tea) seem to support brain-cell structure and function.
Reducing stress is crucial to protecting your memory. The stress hormone cortisol damages brain cells over time. The negative effects of chronic stress also make it more difficult to create and retrieve memories. Here’s a quick and easy and way to lower your stress.
Being socially active helps maintain good brain function because it reduces stress plus tends to involve activities that challenge the mind. Try playing bridge or taking art classes.
Sleep is vital for memory consolidation, which is the process of forming and storing new memories. Sleep deprivation reduces the growth of new neurons in the brain.
Smoking is extremely detrimental to brain health because it constricts the arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain. Smokers score lower on memory tests than nonsmokers.
Brain exercises help you work your mental muscles. Challenge your mind with Scrabble or Sudoku. Learning new things, like a new language, helps keep you sharp – and at the very least keeps life interesting.
Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.