One of the many systems that begins to break down in age is our memory and cognitive function. Even the most alert individuals may suddenly have difficulty finding words they have used for decades. Matching names to faces may take longer than usual and it’s easy to forget what you’re doing. Some level of memory loss is going to happen naturally over time, but how much is lost depends largely on how well you care for yourself. Here are 10 habits you can start building now to help boost, maintain and retain your memory.

Feed It Well

It turns out that what is healthy for your heart is also healthy for your brain. The same polyphenols in wine and concord grape juice that have been shown to have health benefits for your heart can also help maintain cognitive brain function. Certain fats, like those found in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Omega-3’s in fish (particularly salmon) are also shown to have both heart and brain health benefits.

Use It or Lose It

Just like the rest of your body, one of the best ways to maintain your health in the long term is through exercise. Exercising your brain by learning something new, doing puzzles, playing strategic games like chess, and giving yourself other mental challenges will help exercise your brain and keep it limber and flexible.

Stay Social

Isolation can lead to a major decline in cognitive function. Socializing not only helps to ward off stress and depression, it also keeps us on our toes mentally. Just speaking to other people forces our brain to function at a much higher level than when we do when we are just sitting by ourselves.

Get Plenty of Sleep

You don’t have to be a scientist to know there is a direct correlation between brain function and sleep. We’re just not at our best when we are tired. The sooner you start developing good sleeping habits, like going to bed at roughly the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning, the longer these habits have a chance to become lifelong habits.

Exercise

Again, what’s good for the body is good for the brain. Exercise elevates our heart rate, gets blood pumping to our brain and delivers higher than normal concentrations of oxygen – all of which help increase brain function and memory retention.

Stay (Or Get) Organized

You can avoid a great deal of stress by simply getting in the habit of putting things in the same place every time you use them. Then, you don’t have to try and consciously remember where you put things because your subconscious will already know and reach out for them.

Manage Other Health Conditions

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or other chronic conditions, they can all have a direct effect on cognitive brain function and memory. Help keep your memory sharp by managing the other conditions that might sabotage it.

Learn New Tricks

Memory tricks like repetition and using mnemonic devices to help you remember things may become even more important as you age. Like everything else with memory, it’s never too early to start developing your ability to use these tricks to assist you when your cognitive function begins to decline.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Repetition is one of the best friends of memory. Whether it’s putting your car keys in the same place every time, or saying the name of a new acquaintance over and over, the more you repeat something the more it becomes burned into your memory. The deeper the neural pathway is to certain information, the more likely you are to find it.

Supplements

There are a wide variety of supplements that are known to have a positive effect on memory. While eating a healthy diet is important, you may not be able to get all the nutrients you need from food alone. Supplements like fish oil and ginkgo biloba can help supplement a healthy diet and exercise plan.