More Ways to Stay Sharp

Don’t Smoke Smokers perform worse than nonsmokers in studies of memory and cognitive function. No one knows whether smoking directly impairs memory or is merely associated with memory loss because it causes illnesses that contribute to poorer brain function. In addition, smoking increases the risk for stroke and hypertension, two other causes of memory impairment.

In any case, if you smoke, it pays to quit. Research shows that people who stop smoking have less mental decline than those who continue to smoke.

Drink in Moderation While heavy drinking can harm your memory, moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages may be beneficial. Research suggests that drinking up to one drink a day may reduce the risk of dementia. But excessive consumption of alcohol is very toxic to neurons and is the leading risk factor for Korsakoff’s syndrome, a disorder that causes sudden and irreversible memory loss.

If you’re a heavy drinker, cutting back can prevent further memory loss and will usually lead to some recovery of damaged memory function.

Be Social Close ties with others can improve the cognitive performance of older people, according to a MacArthur study on aging and other research. Social support can come from relationships with friends , relatives or care-givers.

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