During a person’s younger years, their memory function may vary widely from their peers. This can be for a variety of reasons, both congenital and acquired. Setting aside any so-called or perceived ‘fixed’ limitations, most people have the capacity to improve their memory function the same way they would strengthen a physical muscle, that is, by regular use, practice and exertion.
As people age, occasional memory lapses may become a common occurrence. Often these are dismissed as ‘senior’s moments’, with the assumption that forgetfulness is a natural part of aging. However, many adults find this “forgetfulness” as something alarming.
Even if some believe that memory decline is normal as we age, experts say that human beings are not actually destined to have increased memory gaps as they reach those golden years and beyond.
While there is no doubt that age-related decline in memory and other cognitive functioning does occur, it is increasingly recognized that this should not be considered a ‘given’. The health or otherwise of any part of the body will affect other parts, and body as a whole. This means there is rarely a simple separation between mental, physical and emotional.
By extension, lifestyle factors, especially long-term ones, will play an important part in supporting or detracting from optimal health. This is certainly true of conditions like dementia, and the symptoms attributed to them, such as poor memory function. Researchers have identified some key behaviors that can affect memory decline, or improvement.
Believe That You Have Control Over Your Mental Health
A large study conducted on people in midlife showed that those individuals who strongly believe that they have greater control over their mental as well as physical health were found to have better intellect and memory skills as they aged.
On the contrary, those study participants who believed they had little control over these aspects were more prone to the symptoms of depression and anxiety. These conditions are well-known for affecting physical and mental performance.
Engage In Regular Aerobic Exercise
Researchers believe that engaging in regular aerobic exercise is one of the most important workouts that a person can do for the long-term health of their brain. As the person’s lungs and heart respond to every sprint, or step they make on the treadmill, their brain is also getting fitter as they regularly perform their workout.
Studies have shown that regular workouts help stimulate the neural connections in the brain, especially in those areas where age-related decline in memory occurs.
Watch Your Diet
This is a big one. What you eat will definitely affect your brain’s performance. If your body has too little or too much energy, your brain will experience an impact in its delicate machineries. This is why experts recommend a low glycemic diet that is rich in fiber, along with moderate amounts of protein and fats.
These kinds of foods are broken down in a slow yet steady manner, as opposed to eating a high glycemic diet that is mostly made up of white starches and sweets. As the low-glycemic diet results in a steady, stable rate of digestion, the brain will also have a steady flow of energy supplied to it. This reliable flow of energy optimizes the brain’s performance and long-term health.
When a person is deprived of sleep, proteins build up on their brain’s synapses. These specific proteins have been found to exist in larger amounts in those have been affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Those who chronically sleep poorly are more likely to experience difficulty thinking and learning new things and cognitive decline as they age.
Recent studies show that 7 or 8 hours of quality sleep is needed to ‘drain away’ these affective proteins. When good sleep is not attained, these proteins accumulate. Researchers believe that this strongly contributes to an increased risk of dementia as the person ages.
Sleep also allows the brain to better process information and retain it for a longer period of time. It also enables the brain to be in the right state of mind to absorb important information as people continue with their daily tasks. When a person sleeps, positive changes in the brain are being triggered which help solidify memories.
This is because during sleep the connections between cells in the human brain are strengthened, making it easier for information to be transferred from one area or region of the brain to another. This enhances not just better cognitive skills but better memory as well.