"Senior moments," "mommy brain," "blonde moments" — whatever you prefer to call it, we all experience forgetfulness from time to time. But there are a few simple things you can do to keep brain glitches at bay. NBC's chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman offers these five easy tips to give your mental powers a boost.
Everything in moderation: Keep your alcohol intake in check
Most people know that too much alcohol can impair your short-term memory. But long-term, overconsumption of alcohol can permanently impair your recall ability. Some studies have shown that moderate drinkers do better on memory tests than both heavy drinkers and even nondrinkers. Although physicians don’t recommend that everyone start consuming alcohol, we certainly know that alcohol abuse can damage your brain cells and impair memory and cognition.
Painful memories: Seek treatment for depression
In addition to stress and anxiety, individuals suffering from major depression may experience symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions. More importantly, depression may result in a spike in the level of cortisol in your brain. A long-term increase in the steroid hormone cortisol may lead to wasting away of your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for memory.
Six miles a week can help you hold on to what matters—your gray matter. According to a study from the University of Pittsburgh, walking six miles a week can protect against brain shrinkage and since brain size has been linked to dementia, men and women everywhere should be lacing up their tennis shoes for a stroll around the park. Aerobic exercise not only keeps your bones and heart healthy, but it may be keeping your brain sharp as well.
Rest to remember: Sleep strengthens memory
Sleep is vital in consolidating memory. The effects of adequate sleep help us understand why studying and getting 8 hours rest, is always better than studying the day of an exam. Sleep specialists still do not know the overarching purpose of sleep however, but emerging research continues to support the idea that sleep is important to the brain. While everyone may agree that a good night’s sleep makes you feel better in the morning, the science behind sleep is also critically important to policy makers that construct work hour regulations for doctors, medical residents and pilots.
Mind boggling: Memory games
Although there is plenty of controversy surrounding the memory benefits of brain-teasers and puzzles, for many people they’re a great way to spend a Sunday morning. An added benefit of brain games is that they can often be shared with family and friends. Social interaction is a great way to get the neurons firing. Interacting with both pets and people has been shown to stave off depressive feelings and will make you feel youthful and vibrant for years to come.