What Harms and what Helps preserve Memory
There’s a plethora of research on things that can harm the brain including memory. Not surprising, many of these are things that also harm other organs and can cause or advance diseases. Some of the top offenders:
- Stress – especially long-term stress when cortisol production is prominent, interferes with thinking and learning.
- Obstructive sleep apnea significantly increases the risk for dementia.
- Obesity – fat cells secrete inflammatory chemicals that damage many tissues
- A lack of sleep – regularly sleeping less than 5 hours a night is associated with worse cognition (compared with those getting 7 to 8 hours a night).
- Sedating medications – older antihistamines, strong pain medications, some beta blockers used for high blood pressure and heart problems, to name just a few. Discuss this with your health care provider if you are on a medication that can cause drowsiness or problems with clear thinking.
- High blood sugar – from diabetes or poor diet. Processed foods, especially high in sugar baked goods, soft drinks and candy can increase the blood sugar and cause harm even if you don’t have diabetes.
What helps preserve and even strengthen memory and thinking ability? This list is also long!
- Exercise – even a thirty minute walk each day helps with blood circulation and with special memory. Physical activity is also associated with an increase in brain cells and improved long-term memory.
- Relaxation – just looking out a window for ten minutes a day is helpful.
- Healthy foods – those high in antioxidants are especially beneficial – for example berries, green vegetables, whole grains, fish, and beans. Turmeric and sage tea are also credited with brain protective effects.
- Social engagement – talking with others, even if the subject isn’t theoretical physics or other deep topics, aids memory and other brain functions.
- Music and art (making and appreciating), crafts like knitting, jigsaw puzzles and word games all can help.
This article is not intended to replace your health care provider. The intent is to make important information about medications and other things that can affect your health available.