7 Habits That Make It Far Less Likely You’ll Lose Your Memory As You Age
When we are young, preserving our memory isn't something we tend to think about regularly. But once we start to get older, we're not going to want to be forgetful, which makes it important to start engaging in habits that prevent memory loss as you age so you can stay sharp over time. Even if you have the best memory now, you'll want to ensure you retain it later by engaging in activities that are good for your brain.
"Habits matter when it comes to memory," Dr. Nada Milosavljevic, MD, tells Bustle. "Our brains — in particular our memory — need to be used and challenged in order to stay sharp. Those tasks that you do with regularity and consistency are those which provide good long-term benefits for cognitive health. With repeated application, habits — especially healthy ones — provide 'workouts' for the brain that foster mental flexibility, recall, and pattern recognition."
Most people think of playing Sudoku and other brain games as the best way to maintain your memory and strengthen your brain, but there are plenty of other habits that do the trick as well. Here are seven habits that make it far less likely you'll lose your memory as you age.
1. Keeping An Active Lifestyle
Experts suggest an essential part of retaining your memory is maintaining an active lifestyle. "There is scientific evidence demonstrating that individuals who exercise have better thinking skills, memory, and a larger brain volume," Dr. Jamie Hardy tells Bustle. "Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and also causes new neurons to form in the hippocampus."
2. Keeping Your Blood Sugar Low
While sugar is fine in moderation, experts say that having high blood sugar may not be good for your brain. "According to the American Academy of Neurology, those with higher blood sugar levels are more likely to have memory problems," says Hardy. "Even for people who don’t have diabetes or high blood sugar, lowering their blood sugar levels could prevent memory problems as they age."
3. Learning New Things
Instead of sticking just with what you know, try engaging in new activities or attempting to learn a new skill. "Taking piano or guitar lessons, crocheting, or discovering a new language for the first time is one way to stimulate brain activity and may create new pathways that help with executive decision making," therapy manager Kendra Ray, PhD, tells Bustle. "Although maintenance of some of our habits help us along in day-to-day activities, exercising our brain through new learning may delay memory loss."
Meditation not only helps with stress and mood, but it can help strengthen your brain when it comes to memory as well. "Meditation increases emotion regulation and decreases the secretion of stress hormones like cortisol," neuroscientist and holistic wellness expert Leigh Winters tells Bustle. "Living in a state of constant busyness and mindlessness can biologically change the way our brain functions, since stress is known to damage and shorten brain synapses that are needed for memory consolidation and retrieval."
5. Spending Time Outdoors
Here's another reason to spend some more time in the sun: it helps with your brain health. "Lack of fresh air and vitamin D have been associated with cognitive impairment," says Winters. "It may seem simple, but many traditional 9-to-5 office workers in America do not get enough sun during the day and likely have a vitamin D deficiency."
6. Eating Fish
Fish is high nutrients such as antioxidants and omega-3s, which can help slow down the aging process in the brain and improve cognitive function, and, therefore memory. "Research has also shown that astaxanthin, which is the pigment in fish that give it its red hue, is one of the most powerful antioxidants out there," Parinaz Samimi, MPH, MBA tells Bustle.
7. Getting Enough Sleep
"There is an incredibly strong link between sleep, memory, and cognitive function," says Samimi. "Sleep deprivation affects every system in your body, from your memory, to your coordination, your mood, and even your cardiovascular health." Although how much you sleep matters, the quality of your sleep is just as important, too. "Memories are consolidated each night during deep sleep, so it is important that you stay asleep long enough to enter deep sleep," she says. "Also, fragmented sleep has been associated with cognitive decline in older adults and Alzheimer's Disease. So getting to sleep and staying asleep are really important."
By keeping these habits in mind, experts say you can keep your mind sharp and prevent memory loss over time.