There is a large and growing body of research evidence that confirms these important facts on memory health:
Memory Tip 1: A healthy heart supports healthy memory function
Uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure) in midlife is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. A history of high cholesterol and heart disease also increase the risk for memory impairment and dementia.
Check your blood pressure regularly: if your systolic blood pressure is over 130 and diastolic blood pressure is over 85 (130+/85+), talk with your doctor about medications to lower your blood pressure.
Also, staying physically active can help minimize brain changes (such as cortical thinning) that come with aging. Physical activity supports good cardiovascular health, and stimulates the neurotrophic factor BDNF, which helps the brain grow new neural connections.
Memory Tip 2: Protect your head, protect your memory
A history of multiple concussions (even seemingly “minor” concussions) can increase the risk of neurodegenerative disorders down the road. Take these steps to protect your brain:
- Always wear a helmet for cycling, motorbiking, ATV riding, and other sporting activities
- Always wear your seatbelt in any moving vehicle
- Put a non-skid mat in bathtubs and showers
Memory Tip 3: Diet and food choices affect your memory health
Healthy brain food = healthy heart food, which means a little bit of red meat, and a lot of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish. The key here is to maintain a relatively healthy pattern and balance on diet choices.
Why is healthy eating good for a healthy brain? In a word, diabetes. Diabetes rates are skyrocketing, and there is a strong and consistent link between dementia and Type II diabetes.
Read more on the MIND Diet Guidelines: the best ten foods for brain health, and the five foods to avoid.
Bottom line: Avoid fried food and fast food most of the time. Put fish, chicken, whole grains, fruits & vegetables on the daily menu.
Memory Tip 4: Mental and social stimulation are good for your memory
The neurons in your brain are growing new connections all the time, especially when you are learning something brand new. Social and emotional support can positively affect brain health, even in times of stress.
Certain structured brain training programs can boost “cognitive reserve” a term used to describe the ability to maintain high cognitive function in the face of early Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent research also points to significant improvements in “fluid intelligence”, a term used to to describe the ability to more rapidly learn new information and solve novel problems, when working memory capacity is improved. See the MindSparke website for an online training example.
Bottom line: Be curious about the world around you. Challenge yourself to learn novel skills. Have a social network that’s good for you.
Memory Tip 5: Get a good night’s sleep for memory health
Chronic sleep deprivation (whether caused by sleep apnea, chronic stress, etc) negatively impacts memory health. Try out these “sleep hygiene” ideas for a full night’s slumber:
- Associate your bed and bedroom with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. (Alcohol metabolizes into glucose, which is a stimulant to the body.)
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light during waking hours – use a lamp that simulates sunlight if necessary.
- Daytime exercise can promote good sleep. A relaxing exercise, like yoga or meditation, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.
Curious about your brain? Take the Healthy Brain Test at MyBrainTest.org – Create Your Personal Brain Health Profile