As we age, some memory loss is normal. Working memory peaks in your 20s and 30s before it slowly starts to decline. We may not have complete control over this aging process, but memory and cognition can be heavily affected by factors that are within our control as well.
Sugar can be a culprit in memory loss. One study has shown that a higher consumption of sugary drinks, such as soda, correlated with lower brain volume and signs of preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease.
But eating a healthy diet can improve your brain power. Foods high in DHA and EPA, like fish, help reduce inflammation and improve memory, since inflammation can be linked to cognitive decline.
Keeping a healthy weight is also an important factor. In fact, it may be the most important one. Obesity has been tied to several factors that impair memory. Obesity is associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, insulin resistance (which leads to inflammation and cognitive impairment), and it can actually change genes in your brain that impact memory.
Sleep plays a big part in memory consolidation. That’s when your brain takes information from your short-term memory and files it away into your long-term memory. People who are sleep deprived perform worse on cognitive tests than those who get a full seven to nine hours of sleep.
But knowing how much sleep you are getting isn’t always as simple as counting the hours you laid in bed. Untreated conditions, such as sleep apnea, can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. Apnea can keep your body from going into the deep sleep it needs for rest and restoration.
Another interesting way that sleep deprivation affects memory and learning is through your mood. Lack of sleep causes a negative change in your mood, which in turn hampers your ability to acquire new information.
Just like you need physical activity to stay healthy, your mind needs mental activity to remain alert and agile. And while “mental activity” can mean participating in activities that are intentionally challenging, it can also include simple cognitive exercises, such as engaging with others in conversation or volunteering and learning new names and faces.
An article in Harvard Health says, “One study, published in Neurology, found a direct link between the amount of cognitive activity, such as reading the newspaper or playing chess, and the level of cognitive function in the following year.”
But even though the emphasis here is on mental activity, physical activity certainly doesn’t hurt. Physical exercise improves all of the things we’ve already talked about. Physical exercise keeps your weight down, guarding against obesity-related memory loss. It also reduces inflammation, which we’ve seen is another cause of cognitive decline. Not only that, physical exercise can improve your sleep, which – you guessed it- improves your memory consolidation.
Having an active, healthy lifestyle is the best way to stay cognitively sharp. So if you’ve tried all of these strategies and still seem to have significant trouble remembering, please talk to your doctor. There could be an underlying condition or medication adjustment that needs to be addressed.
And for your natural moments of forgetfulness, check out ILA’s line of Orbit Trackers. Orbit Trackers help you keep track of your most commonly lost items by using Bluetooth technology to page them from your phone.