You can dye your hair, work a smartphone, and have the body of a 30-something -- but forget where you parked your car or that you were supposed to give your kids a ride home from soccer practice and you've completely given away your age.
We're not sure what's more irritating: our actual forgetfulness as we age or biting quips about our "senior moments." But take heart. There's plenty you can do to keep your memory sharp as a tack, and it's not all about brainteasers and Sudokus.
Here are 7 science-proven ways you can preserve and improve your memory.
1. Suck it up and hit the gym.
Besides fighting the dreaded middle-age spread, evidence suggests older people who exercise have sharper minds. A study conducted last year by the University of Texas-Dallas found older exercisers saw improvements in memory and cognition, in as little as six weeks after starting an exercise regimen. The participants worked out three times a week for an hour, either riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill. Improvements were noted even when the participants previously had sedentary lifestyles.
All the more reason to get up off the couch.
2. Mind the wine.
You may enjoy unwinding after work with a beer or a glass of wine, but drink too much and you'll pay the price later on. A recent study found middle-aged men who drink more than two and a half drinks per day will experience memory loss and cognitive problems up to six years sooner than those who drink more moderately. So do yourself a favor and drink less or drink less frequently.
3. Take more naps.
A good nap can make you feel like a brand new person. You wake up less stressed, more alert, and in a better mood. And if you're yawning at your desk after that afternoon meeting, it may be the perfect time to take a power nap. A Harvard University study found students who were trained on tasks then took a brief nap, performed better on memory tasks than their non-napping counterparts.
Researchers also know that sleep helps us process and consolidate memories and that lack of sleep can lessen your focus.
4. Break your routine.
"If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal," author Paulo Coelho tweeted. It can get easy to fall into a comfortable pattern as we get old, whether it's taking the same route home everyday or ordering the same salad five days a week for lunch. Neuroscientists say new experiences help your brain recall and retain information better.
"Our brains are constantly deciding what’s important enough to remember and what can be tossed away. When you’re in a novel situation, your brain assumes that information is going to be important and holds on to it...You’ll better retain things that happen immediately after a novel experience,” NIH researcher R. Douglas Fields told Fox News.
So go on. Try the soup of the day or go to that Zumba class at your gym.
5. Your mother was right. Eat your veggies.
A strong body equals a strong mind. Besides keeping your heart healthy and staying active, a good memory needs to be fueled with nourishing foods. A Harvard University study over 25 years found women who ate plenty of vegetables, especially leafy greens, were less likely to develop age-related memory problems. Another study reported that phytochemicals found in some vegetables helped reverse memory loss in animals.
Health expert Joy Bauer recommends kale, spinach, leeks, and broccoli among others.
6. Consider mindfulness.
Here at The Huffington Post, we're all about learning to de-stress and unplug from all of our modern day troubles. Besides helping with conditions like chronic anxiety, addiction, and depression, meditation can help improve your memory. One study found that after meditating just four times a week for 45 minutes, graduate students at the University of California, Santa Barbara improved their memory and focus in just two weeks. Students practiced mindfulness with simple techniques like breathing, listening to relaxing sounds, and counting exercises.
It seems like we're onto something.
7. Drink up.
Tea, coffee, soda-- pick your poison. Beyond just perking you up in the morning, researchers believe caffeine can be a memory booster. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University believe caffeine can help you recall and retain information. Participants who were given 200 mg of caffeine, about the same as 1-2 cups of brewed coffee, performed better on memory tests than those who were given a placebo pill.
"We've always known that caffeine has cognitive-enhancing effects, but its particular effects on strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting has never been examined in detail in humans. We report for the first time a specific effect of caffeine on reducing forgetting over 24 hours," study author Michael Yassa said in a release.
We think it's time for a refill.
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