Everybody’s memory goes on the fritz now and again. Many lapses can be blamed on normal, fleeting problems like inattention or an overly busy day.
More concerning, though, are certain ongoing kinds of memory problems, which is why it’s worth doing everything in your power to minimize their odds of happening.
1. Control your risk for heart problems.
Cardiovascular risks—including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and abnormal heart rhythm—can raise your risk for dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. So do what you can to control such conditions by eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and getting regular physical activity. A study Group Health Research Institute published in 2006—and others later replicated—showed that people who exercised three or more times a week had a 30–40 percent lower risk for developing dementia than did those who exercised less.
2. Moderate or avoid alcohol consumption.
Experts disagree on how moderate alcohol consumption affects brain health, but long-term overuse is clearly harmful, leading to cognitive impairment. That’s just one of many good reasons to drink moderately if at all. Guidelines commonly define “moderate” as one drink a day for women, two for men.
3. Avoid overmedication and drug interactions.
Stay informed about any drugs you take—prescription and over the counter—especially those you take long-term for chronic conditions. Avoid dangerous interactions and being overmedicated, which can cause memory problems and dementia. GHRI and the University of Washington (UW) researchers discovered in 2015, for example, that a class of drugs called anticholinergics—including certain common antidepressants, bladder drugs, and antihistamines—are linked to a slightly higher chance of developing dementia. Should you avoid these drugs because of the risk? Discuss this question with your doctor, weighing the pros and cons, and read our FAQ.
4. Avoid a high-sugar diet.
Research has long shown that high blood sugar due to diabetes can raise your risk for many health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. But in 2013, a GHRI/UW research team discovered that high blood sugar raises your risk for these conditions—even without diabetes. That’s one more reason to avoid food and drinks high in sugar, such as sweetened sodas.
5. Limit stress—particularly as you grow older.
Elderly people especially can have a hard time adapting to big changes in their lives. One reason is that cortisol, a hormone secreted when you’re under stress, has a stronger effect on older brains, challenging an elderly person’s ability to recover from emotional upset.
6. Get the sleep you need.
Research has shown that inadequate sleep is linked to slower thinking and more risk for dementia. Individual needs vary greatly—but most guidelines recommend getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
7 avoid head injury of any type, head injury is one of the major factor that can lead to a serious Brian diffect.
8 Stay socially engaged.
Challenging your brain by learning new things has many benefits. Even better is pursuing interests that connect you with others. “It’s probably better for brain health to have a conversation over lunch with a friend than to memorize numbers in reverse, for instance,” Gordon says.
9 Exercise Your Brain
Just as staying active is an important part of physical health, keeping the brain active plays a role in maintaining brain health. Brain “exercise” doesn’t have to be boring! There are a variety of leisure activities that also give the brain a workout. According to the National Institute on Aging, reading, participating in a hobby, or even engaging socially with friends and family can help keep the brain stimulated. Some studies suggest puzzles may also be a way to keep the mind active and potentially promote brain function. Switching up your routine and learning a new skill or activity are other ways to keep the brain alert.