Maximizing Our Memory
Our memory is truly one of our greatest assets. It’s crucial for every aspect of life: career, school, relationships (remembering names, faces, events, interests of others, etc), and everyday life all depend upon our ability to recall previous facts and bits of information. We then must know how to apply that information to solve a variety of problems that come our direction.
I believe it is optimal to maximize the memory and brain health during youth and early adulthood both for maximum quality of life during early adulthood, but also to hopefully delay or prevent disability from memory loss as one gets older.
Research has recently shown that lifestyle changes are perhaps the primary reason for more complaints of memory loss. There are four that stand out as likely primary factors:
Memory and Brain Health Key #1: Maintain a brain-friendly lifestyle
1. Get your sleep. Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. Research is clear that adults need 7 ½ hours per night for optimal health. Less sleep results in weight gain, fatigue, depressed mood, greater risk of diabetes and cancer, higher blood pressure, and impaired memory and decision making. College students, ages 17-21 should ideally get 9-11 hours of sleep per night and those in their early 20’s still need 8-10 hours per night. Children need more.
2. Maintain your rhythm. For our brain function to be at its best, we need to keep our brain on a regular 24 hour schedule. This means having our “circadian rhythm”, our 24 hour rhythm synchronized from day to day. So, go to bed about the same time and wake at about the same time. Honor your body’s natural 24 hour rhythm. Ever feel draggy after sleeping in late? Your brain was out of rhythm. Try to maintain a consistent schedule even on the weekends. You will think more clearly and remember easier.
3. Stay fit. A healthy, fit, trim body is essential to maintain a healthy brain. Research has shown for example that depression can be treated successfully simply by exercising for 30 minutes three times a week on a treadmill. And, the results are as effective as prescription anti-depressants. Exercise stimulates blood flow through the brain and helps optimize the level of healthy neurotransmitters that help us to think clearly, make decisions better, have improved memories, and better moods.
4. Avoid weight gain. In the journal Neurology in 2011 research showed that those with metabolic syndrome (abdominal weight gain and consequences like higher blood pressure and triglycerides) had a 20% increased risk of memory loss. What is good for the body is good for the brain!
Your brain is precious and is worthy of tender loving care. Honor your brain by maintaining a lifestyle that supports, protects, and maximizes your brain function and ability!
In Part 2 (next week), we will look at Memory and Nutrition.