The Brain: If You Don’t Use it, You Could Lose it!

memory lossEvery day, we all have memory lapses. Where did I put my keys? Why did I walk into this room? What’s that word (it’s on the tip of my tongue)?

There’s much dispute over the exact reason (are our brains shrinking as we age or are our mental hard drives simply running out of storage space or both?); however, the fact remains that we just don’t retrieve information like we used to. And there’s always the fear that those little lapses, frustrating as they are, could become bigger ones over time.

While we may never have the memory of an elephant (or our youth) again, there are plenty of things we can do to help keep our brains sharper longer:

Get moving. Not only will those crunches and leg lifts develop our bodies, but they’ll also help us develop brain cells. In fact, walking six to nine miles per week has been proven to significantly prevent brain shrinkage. Exercise also reduces our risk for conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which can result in memory loss.

Don’t sweat it. Over time, cortisol, the stress hormone, can do damage to the brain. But even at the exact moment that we’re getting knots in our stomach and heartburn over some agonizing situation, that anxiety can also make it difficult for us to concentrate and recall things.

Live well. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fats nourishes the brain, while getting plenty of sleep helps us store memories and retrieve them later. Conversely, lack of sleep can lead to depression, which, like stress, can make it harder for our brains to function properly.

Stay active and social. But the most important thing we can do to keep our minds sharp is to use them! Playing games that involve strategy and reading books, newspapers, and websites that challenge us has been proven to strengthen our brains and dramatically decrease our chances of memory loss. It’s also vital to keep learning new things!

And for goodness’ sake, turn off the TV! Losing ourselves in endless hours of sitcoms and reality shows not only makes us sedentary, it causes our minds to become stagnant.

Tell us about ways you keep your brain in shape in the comments below!