We love to look back on our memories. Whether we’re reminiscing on our own childhoods, our children’s childhoods, or just a great day we had last summer, a little bit of nostalgia never hurt anyone.

But as we age, the fear of one day losing our memories begins to take hold. An estimated 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and someone develops dementia in the world every 3 seconds. These conditions affect many aspects of our lives, but the loss of our memories is a particularly striking terror.

Our ability to retain memories affects our daily life also, no matter our age. If you can’t remember where your keys are, you’re bound to lose valuable time each day and find yourself pretty frustrated. Remembering people’s names, appointments, or our friends’ birthdays are important ways we form relationships with others and the world around us.

So what can we do to protect our memories, and the powerful brains housing them? Incorporate these steps into your lifestyle and start doing the work today to protect your memories tomorrow.

  1. Meditate
    We’ve discussed meditation’s importance before, but it bears repeating. Meditation helps us learn to mindfully concentrate, which strengthens your brain and its ability to retain thoughts. Research has shown that participants with no experience in mindfulness, meditation can improve their memory recall in just eight weeks.
  2. Exercise
    The fact that working out is good for you is common sense, but it can do wonders for memory recall. Exercise stimulates our mind and improves cognitive abilities. Older adults who practice regular fitness tend to show less signs of memory decline as they age.
  3. Get enough sleep
    When we’re asleep, our brain does most of its memory consolidation. Sleeping helps us retain memories, and a good night’s sleep means you have the mental strength to place and recall thoughts. Even a nap can help improve memory, if you need to sneak one in before a big interview or test.
  4. Eat less sugar
    Artificial and added sugars have been linked to multiple forms of cognitive decline. Too much sugar makes our brains feel foggy and heavy, and has an especially strong impact on short-term memory skills. One study of more than 4,000 people found that those with a higher intake of sugary beverages like soda had lower total brain volumes and poorer memories on average compared to people who consumed less sugar.
  5. Drink less booze
    Forgetting things when you drink is often a sign you had too many, but drinking constantly over a period of years can lead to permanent loss of ability to form lasting memories. Alcohol has severe neurotoxic effects, which can strongly affect your brain’s hippocampus and the ability to create and store memories. A drink every now and then is a-ok, but practice moderation and common sense.