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Small memory lapses that come with age cause normal changes in the structure and function of the brain. They are not necessarily signs of a significant problem. It is the way we live, our diet, and how we take care of our body and our mind that have an impact on our memory, our physical health, and our well-being.
“Humans, not places, make memories.”
— Ama Ata Aidoo
How to Keep A Sharp Mind
Here is what we can do to keep our mind sharp. These points are not in order of importance; they are equally important and add to each other.
- Manage your stress. Everyday stresses such as pressures to meet deadline or petty arguments can distract you and affect your ability to focus and recall. The greater challenge is the constant sense of extreme anxiety that can lead to memory loss. Each one of us needs a plan to manage our stress level to help us protect our memory. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and a mindful approach to living can all help.
- Get enough sleep. People who do not sleep well or do not get enough hours of sleep at night tend to be forgetful and unfocused. A good night’s sleep is essential for consolidating memories.
- Quit smoking if you smoke. Smokers are more prone to memory loss related to age and other memory problems than non-smokers. Middle-age people who smoke more than two packs of cigarettes a day have more than double the risk of developing dementia in old age compared with non-smokers. Those who stop smoking by midlife and those who smoke less than half a pack a day have a similar a risk of dementia as people who have never smoked.Dementia is a prolonged disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury. Memory disorders, personality changes, and weakened reasoning are symptoms of dementia.
- Drink alcohol in reasonable amounts, that is if you like alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk for memory loss and dementia. Alcoholics have difficulty executing short-term memory tasks, such as memorizing lists.
- Protect your brain from injury. Head trauma is one of the most important causes of memory loss; it increases the risk of developing dementia. Wear the right gear during high-speed activities and contact sports. Car accidents are a common cause of brain injury; wearing seat belts reduces the chances of severe head injury. Wear a helmet when bicycling, riding on a motorcycle, in-line skating, and skiing.
- Lifelong Learning. Sharpens your working memory to remember everyday details. It is the learning that takes place outside a school, university, or corporate training. You could learn new practical skills such as how to improve the way you manage your finances, computer skills, or communication skills. You could discover new hobbies or talent.
- Train Your Brain. Exercise your cognitive skills by playing brain games such as crosswords, word-recall games, and mobile apps dedicated to memory training. Brain games are an effective way to boost your memory.
- Exercise and keep a healthy weight. A healthy body weight is vital for well-being. It is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind in the best condition. It is well known that being obese can cause changes to memory-associated genes in the brain, which affects memory in a negative way. Obesity can also lead to insulin resistance and inflammation that can have a negative effect on the brain.
- Healthy Diet. Consult a nutritionist to find the best diet for you. a) Eat Less Refined Sugar and Carbs. A diet loaded with sugar can lead to poor memory and can reduce brain volume, particularly in the part of the brain that stores short-term memory. Consuming enormous amounts of refined carbohydrates like cakes, cereal, cookies, white rice, and white bread may damage your memory. b) Choose Anti-Inflammatory Foods. A diet that is rich with anti-inflammatory foods may help improve your memory. Antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, and teas help lower inflammation in the body. People who eat more fruits and vegetables have lower risks of cognitive decline and dementia compared to those who eat less of these nutritious foods.
- Meditate. Research shows that meditation increases gray matter in the brain. Gray matter declines with age, and that changes memory and cognition in a negative way. It is well-known that meditation and relaxation techniques improve short-term memory in people of all ages.
- Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state where you focus on your present situation, while staying aware of your surroundings and feelings. It is useful in lowering stress levels and improving concentration and memory.
- Take care of your health. Diabetes, depression, menopause, vitamin B deficiency, may affect your memory. Do not delay talking to your medical doctor if you have a health condition.
Here are five tips to create a healthy diet that you can enjoy.
- Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and fish are best.
- Try new recipes and meal plans. Be creative and have fun with your new diet instead of worrying about it.
- Change your diet slowly and focus on one item a week. For breakfast, have oatmeal or bran cereal and fruit. If you do not have time for a sit-down breakfast, grab high-fiber cereal bars instead of donuts or muffins. For lunch, have salads, low-fat yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese, tuna or peanut butter sandwiches, and fruit. Snack on unsalted nuts, trail mix, fruit, raw veggies, or graham crackers. Try eating a few handfuls of a crunchy fiber cereal, or snack on a cereal bar. For dinner, go with fish, skinless poultry, beans, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and, of course, salads and veggies. Fruit and low-fat frozen desserts are good for after-dinner treats. You can have a moderate portion of a rare cake, pie, or chocolate.
- Relax about your diet. Not everything on your plate must have a higher purpose. Take your tastes and preferences into account. If roast beef is your favorite food, it is okay to eat it — but try to make it a Sunday treat instead of a daily staple. The better your overall diet, the more you can indulge an occasional passion.
- Do not be hard on yourself if you slip up from time to time. Do not worry about every meal or every bite. A whole and sensible dietary plan will make up for nutritional ups and downs.
Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard University.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 10, 2020:
Very pertinent points and each of them is important. Stay blessed
Danny from India on August 05, 2020:
Thanks for sharing the tips, Liliane. I try to consume foods rich in omega-3 & zinc. Both amazing ingredients.