If you've ever been stressed, you probably know how the constant worry and anxiety that come with it keep you from being able to focus on anything important, which can lead to even more stress. But it isn't just on a psychological level that stress can affect our memory.
Studies have shown that stress is harmful to our memory on a cellular level, too, because the stress hormone cortisol can disrupt the connections between the nerve cells in the brain, making recall and formation of new memories more challenging. In turn, chronic stress can have long-term effects on brain chemistry, so make sure to find a coping strategy right for you and learn to combat stress.
2. Certain Medications
Both prescription and over-the-counter medications are actually capable of messing with your memory, with even such common meds as antihistamines and OTC painkillers having the potential to cause brain fog, a state of feeling less wakeful or aware than normal that's often accompanied with memory and concentration problems.
The medications that are the most likely to have brain fog as one of the side effects are antipsychotics, antidepressants, and sleep and anxiety aids that directly influence brain chemistry. Keep in mind that this doesn't make these medications bad, and if your doctor insists that you cannot replace the medication with an alternative, you should by all means continue the treatment as long as it is necessary.
It turns out that both what you eat and when you eat makes a huge difference for your memory. Late snacking, for example, has been shown to disrupt circadian rhythms, which are the natural sleep and wake cycles our bodies go through every day. "One of the consistent things we see in people who have disruptions in their circadian rhythms is memory deficits," said Christopher Colwell, a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, in an interview with Insider.
Apart from late meals, though, overindulging in junk foods, fried foods, and sweets, are likewise known to mess with the memory function. Instead, opt for brain food like walnuts and fatty fish. For more dietary choices that will benefit your memory, read the article 10 Super Foods That Prevent Memory Loss.
4. Thyroid Issues
Not just habits, but certain health conditions not directly related to the brain, too, can manifest themselves through memory loss and difficulty concentrating, and thyroid problems are a common concern. The thyroid gland is situated in your neck and controls cell metabolism, development, and growth.
When the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism develops, a common symptom of which is brain fog and memory loss. An overactive thyroid, on the other hand, known as hyperthyroidism may lead to problems with concentration. To learn more about thyroid issues, consider reading the article 11 Signs Your Thyroid Doesn't Work Properly.
Not only physical health conditions, but also mental health can have a negative effect on memory. Depression, an increasingly common mental condition that affects over 264 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO) has been firmly connected with a decrease in executive functioning, which includes such mental faculties as memory, concentration, and even the ability to multi-task.
As it is the case with physical health conditions, seeking treatment likewise reduces the memory loss and other mental issues associated with depression.
6. Sedentary Lifestyle
As we've mentioned in the introduction, brain shrinkage is one of the symptoms of aging that awaits everyone, but this doesn't mean that we can do nothing about it. In fact, the secret to a healthier brain is exercise, which, as it turns out, is beneficial to our body and our mind! Aerobic exercise in particular has been shown to increase the size of the hippocampus, one of the most important memory centers in our brain.
Studies involving senior citizens found that aerobic exercise slowed down age-related memory loss by 1-2 years. Best of all, only 20-30 of moderate activity, such as gardening or walking, 5 times a week seems to be enough to yield these benefits!
We're all well aware of the effects smoking has our lungs and even our cardiovascular health, but the negative influence of the harmful habit on our brain health is generally overlooked. The sad truth is, however, that smoking makes the cortex - the outermost layer of the brain - thinner in certain areas, which manifests itself in memory problems, apart from other negative symptoms, according to a study from McGill University.
A different study also found that smoking can lead to the loss of up to 1/3 of one's everyday memories. Luckily, the first study also points out that giving up the harmful habit can lead to partial recovery of the cortical areas affected by smoking.
8. Not Enough Sleep
Are you getting the recommended amount of sleep appropriate for your age every night? If not, then you shouldn't be surprised to see some changes in memory, too, as memory loss is actually a common symptom of insomnia. According to research, memory consolidation, a process when our memories are set in our brain through the strengthening of neural connections, happens while we are asleep. Poor quality sleep or sleep deprivation, in turn, can disrupt this process and lead to memory problems.
Share this article with everyone who might find it useful!