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6 Lifestyle Pillars For Memory

Man riding a road bike on the street

There is strong scientific evidence showing the link between lifestyle choices and long-term brain health and memory. There are six Lifestyle Pillars that support memory. They work not only individually, but also in harmony to protect your brain and keep it healthy. Here is a look at these pillars.

Nutrients:

The most important lifestyle pillar for memory is nutrition, and nutrients are the building blocks of nutrition. Nutrients have a critical influence on how well your brain performs, from thinking to remembering to processing information. 

We need nutrients to create a healthy body for sleep and to fuel the brain and body for physical and mental exercise. Good nutrition is an important stress management tool. When our bodies are poorly fed, stress takes an even greater toll on our health and our brain. Nutrition is also linked to hormonal balance and is crucial in the production of hormones like oxytocin and endorphins. 

The right nutrients have an enormous impact on your mental capabilities and long-term cognitive health. The key to lifelong brain health and protection is a nutrient-dense diet.  

Sleep:

Quality sleep is essential for a healthy brain. During deep sleep, the brain repairs itself, boosts your immune system, and consolidates information learned during the previous day. Poor quality sleep or insufficient sleep leads to fatigue, immune suppression, memory problems, lack of concentration, and mood disorders.

Studies have found that:

  • Sleep helps us solve specific problems.
  • Sleep strengthens and improves memories.
  • REM sleep is critical for recovering from mental stress.
  • Naps can make you smarter and more productive.
  • Sleep fosters creativity, emotional processing, and judgment.

    We should all try to get more sleep, particularly to bolster our learning, retention, and memory – as well as to protect our brains against cognitive decline. 

    Physical Activity:

    Exercise is good for the body, and of course, what’s good for the body is also good for the brain. Physical activity improves oxygen flow to the brain which stimulates mental agility and sharpens mental performance. There is evidence that demonstrates physical activity at all ages may protect against cognitive decline.

    So, what is the best form of exercise to prevent cognitive decline and protect memory? Many forms of physical activity are beneficial for brain health and cognitive function, but the most effective, according to research, is aerobic exercise. This includes moderate-to-high intensity activities like walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, dance, and even energetic housework.

    At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week, preferably every day, can improve concentration, relieve stress (which damages the brain), elevate mood, and energize the body and brain. Moving your body with whatever activity you choose will do your brain and your overall health a world of good.

    Mental Activity:

    If we neglect our brains – that is, we don’t use them – we can expect foggy thinking, poor memory, and sluggish reasoning to set in. By contrast, stimulating your brain activates neural pathways, triggers lively neurotransmitter activity, expands tiny blood vessels in the brain, and builds connections for mental power. The result is a brain that stays sharp and refuses to decline.

    Here are some mental exercises that will help protect your brain as you get older:
    • Engage in leisure activities such as reading, computer usage, playing card and board games, solving puzzles, playing musical instruments, and learning a second language.
    • Maintain an active social life with activities such as traveling, attending theater concerts or art shows, and participating in activities with friends and family.
    • Partake in stimulating activities such as memorizing a fact or an important number, learning new vocabulary words, doing math in your head or on paper.

      Mental activity improves memory and thinking skills, it is also enjoyable.

      Reduce Stress:

      Growing scientific evidence shows that stress damages the brain. The reason involves the brain’s response to hormones that surge during periods of stress. One of these hormones is cortisol. When faced with a threat, the body goes into a fight or flight mode, in which cortisol is released. Cortisol gives you energy sources such as extra glucose in order to fight or flee from the threat. Once the threat passes, cortisol returns to normal levels.

      If the stress is not resolved, cortisol builds up in the brain, where it kills brain cells, reducing the size of the brain. This damage adversely affects memory, learning, and the ability to be social and interact normally with others. Stress is also closely linked to conditions such as depression and anxiety, which have also been suggested as factors that can increase the risk of dementia.

      Given the evidence of what stress can do to your brain and memory, is there anything you can do to prevent or reverse the process? Absolutely. Here are some suggestions:

      • Fortify yourself nutritionally.
      • Exercise regularly. 
      • Get adequate sleep and rest.
      • Practice deep breathing exercises.
      • Take mini time-outs to read or relax.
      • Cut down on stress-inducing substances (such as alcohol).
      • Organize your life and take better control of your time. 

        Accept stress. Don’t aim for a stress-free life; it’s not possible. But do aim to have better, healthier responses to stress.

        Tap into Love

        Love is not just an emotion; it is an action that is critical for long term brain health. Oxytocin, the Love Hormone, helps us form social bonds and boosts our moods.

        It has long been known that oxytocin makes people more social, trusting, generous, and loving. Technically, it is a neuropeptide, meaning that it’s a protein-like molecule your brain cells use to communicate with each other. Oxytocin is also a hormone; the brain releases it into the bloodstream to communicate with the body.

        Oxytocin has powerful effects on memory. It has a positive effect on stress reduction. As mentioned, stress harms the brain by chronically elevating cortisol. Oxytocin opposes cortisol, lowering it in the body. It also enhances happiness and helps improve your cognitive health.

        With all that it does, here are some strategies to coax the brain into releasing more oxytocin.

        • Spend time with friends.
        • Have a pet and give it affection.
        • Enjoy warm showers and temperatures.
        • Practice yoga.
        • Embrace a meditation practice.
        • Listen to soothing music.
        • Volunteer for an organization or charity. 

          The Power to Protect Your Brain:

          With lifestyle - how we live our lives and care for our bodies and minds – you enhance, even renew your health and your brain power by taking charge of them through nutrition, exercise, and other preventive measures. Lifestyle activities, practiced over a lifetime, play a crucial role in memory and long-term cognitive health.

          You have the power to protect and maintain your memory as you age by consuming the right nutrients and making healthy lifestyle decisions.