Have you noticed how many passwords there seem to be these days? Whether it’s email, a streaming site, social media, or just to get into your phone, there are a lot of things to remember.
The brain is a muscle, and it needs to be exercised and well taken care of. Brain teasers and other mental exercises can be valuable tools, and Merrill is here to help as well! Keep reading to learn five lifestyle tips to help preserve your memory and keep your brain fit.
1. Stay active
We often think about the body and the brain as two separate parts of our being. But actually, our body and brain are connected! Keeping your body healthy helps your brain function at its best. According to the CDC, maintaining a healthy weight and controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure can help improve your brain health. But how?
Psychology Today says that a decline in cognitive skills and memory can come from reduced blood flow to the brain. Exercise helps maintain blood flow, keeping your brain healthy and helping you improve memory. An hour of exercise (like walking or taking a ride on a stationary bike) three times or more per week can lead to improvements in blood flow to the parts of your brain that deal with memory. Many doctors now think it’s one of the best ways to keep your brain in tiptop shape, so don’t forget to get out there and stay active!
2. Healthy eating
Speaking of body health, we know that bacon in the morning can be quite tempting - same goes for those cookies and donuts with your coffee or tea. But they may be doing more harm than you realize. We all know that LDL cholesterol (aka - the bad one) can build up in your arteries, but it can also lead to build ups in your brain hat can impact the potential for Alzheimer’s. Studies have also shown that people with higher levels of saturated fat in their diets don’t perform quite as well on cognitive tests than people with lower levels.
It’s not just about what you don’t put into your body, but what you put into it as well! Foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts will help boost the good kind of cholesterol (HDL), while helping to reduce the bad. Go for the veggie option from time to time, or switch out that donut for a bran muffin or a protein bar. Your brain will eat it up.
3. Avoid smoking and drinking
You probably saw this coming. When we’re talking about things we put in our bodies, few things do more damage to us than smoking and drinking. Smoking is especially bad as it restricts blood flow in the body, as well as a whole host of other health issues. You’ve heard all that stuff before, but these can have an impact on your overall brain health as well. Smoking also reduces brain gray matter, which plays a huge role in thinking and memory. Drinking slows down your memory, leading to memory loss and blackouts. It also messes with your sleep, which can cause big problems in the long term.
Sleep is a beautiful thing, and it’s really the foundation to any healthy lifestyle. Sleeping helps cement memories and learning, so a lack of it can be really difficult on your brain. Think about it like working out - after you’ve exercised your body, it needs rest and time to recover to rebuild and reinforce the muscles you’ve worked during your exercise.
The brain is no different. All the experiences and learning you’ve done during the day are like a workout for your brain, and it needs time to organize and adhere them into your memory (as well as clear out the clutter). Sleep is when your brain does that work. If you don’t get enough sleep or it gets disrupted, your brain doesn’t get that recovery and reinforcement time, which starts to affect your memory and overall cognitive abilities. On average, most adults need about 6–9 hours of uninterrupted (this is very important) sleep. We’re all different, so figure out which works for you and get your rest.
5. Spend time with your loved ones
Sometimes it’s nice to just spend a quiet afternoon alone, without all the noise and hustle and bustle. These times are important for our brains, bodies, and souls, but spending too much time alone can also become a habit you fall into. Be sure you make time to socialize and interact with other people regularly. Meet your friends for a coffee or a walk around the park, visit your family members, start a book club, or pick up a hobby where you can engage with other people.
We’re social creatures by nature, and social interaction has been proven time and time again to improve mental state and functions. It also helps us feel connected to people and our environment. Even just 10 minutes a day can help you keep your memory fresh and healthy. Although nothing beats in-person meet-ups, technology (such as video chatting) can be helpful when in-person isn’t possible. So, reach out and say “Hi” to someone. Your brain, and heart, will thank you.
There are a number of ways to help preserve your memory health. Do brain teasers and other mental exercises, go for walks with your friends and family, sleep, and put good things into your body.