Many of us know that the environment we are in can affect our health. Factors like access to clean drinking water, air quality, and whether or not we live in a food desert or a safe place to spend time outdoors influence our well-being in many capacities that relate to both the body and the mind. And, according to health.gov, 12 million people who either inhabit or attend work in an unhealthy environment die due to this fact on an annual basis. Poor heart health, breathing problems, and mental health symptoms affiliated with certain conditions are higher risks for those living in an unhealthy or unclean environment. How, though, does the environment impact memory specifically?
Today, we will discuss what the research says and talk about some ways to potentially protect memory.
How Does The Environment Impact Memory?
Memory is something that many of us take for granted until it starts to decline. It may not be something we think about much until our capacity to remember starts to reduce or it begins to affect our lives and the lives of those around us.
Research on the environment and memory says that, even with other factors in mind, like whether or not someone smokes cigarettes and socioeconomic status, air pollution increases the likelihood of a type of dementia called Alzheimer’s. Exposure to poor air quality during one’s childhood can even affect someone later in life, including with regard to cognition.
The unfortunate part about this is that we don’t exactly have control over the quality of air we breathe. You can find a map of air quality rankings in the middle east that operates in real-time here: https://aqicn.org/map/middleeast/.
Other factors, like family history, are incredibly important to take into account when it comes to memory, memory loss, cognition, and disease across the board. These are also, of course, things that we don’t have full control over. What a person can do is protect their memory in the ways they can.
Protect Your Memory
What can you do to protect your memory, even if only to some extent? As shown by research, here are some ways to protect your memory:
1. Use activities to stimulate the mind
According to a North American organization called the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), activities like using the computer, playing games, and even potential hobbies like arts and crafts can help make a person less likely to develop memory problems. Reading, gardening, baking, and music also seem to have a potential positive effect.
2. Manage stress
Like air quality and other environmental factors, higher stress levels are linked to Alzheimer’s and other concerns or conditions related to cognition and memory.
3. If possible, remain physically active
Not everyone is able to engage in all or most physical activities. However, if there is a way that you can get your body moving, it is shown to support memory. Various types of movement, like yoga and walking are shown to boost memory. Tailor physical activity to your ability so that it suits your body. A reduction in both physical and mental stress markers is also a possible result of physical activity.
4. Connect with other people
Quality social interaction and social bonds are linked to improved overall physical and mental health, but some research shows that it can also help protect memory. Social interaction can be found through support groups, classes, community activities, and more, in addition to the interaction you have with existing friends and family members.
5. Employ other health-promoting actions
Health-promoting actions and behaviors that may link to better memory include but are not limited to not smoking cigarettes, consumption of nutritious food, and meditation.
If you do experience memory problems, or if someone you know does, know that it’s not your fault or theirs. These are unfortunately common, and all those studies show links between memory and certain potential choices or behaviors, it is not something we can prevent in many cases.
Difficulty with memory, whether it impacts you or someone you love, can be devastating. It’s important that you have support in place to help you care for yourself mentally and physically. If concerns related to memory arise in your life, make sure to speak with a medical professional who can help. Various medical and mental health conditions can impact memory. Your doctor may be able to determine a potential underlying cause, provide advice or guidance, and refer you to a specialist if needed.