How Does Lifestyle Affect Memory?

Article by Marie Miguel
Posted: January 24, 2022  

Most people understand how lifestyle choices impact physical health and many try to eat healthier, exercise more, and sleep enough. However, these types of lifestyle choices, as well as the activities we choose to participate in, can influence our cognition and memory as well.

In fact, making some positive lifestyle choices can help you improve your memory. It is common for people to forget times, dates, names, and even the plot of a movie or book that they read recently. While small memory lapses are normal, they can still be frustrating.

Knowing how memory works can help you understand how your life decisions can affect your memory as well as other aspects of cognitive function.

How Does Memory Work?

Memory involves 3 primary functions that combine to provide us with the memory many of us take for granted. The first basic feature of memory is known as acquisition, and it is characterized by the introduction and consumption of new information. The initial experience of memory or information is necessary for us to access memories at a later time.

The acquisition phase is important for memory and the way that we absorb the information can make it easier or harder to recall. If we pay close attention or interact with the information, we are more likely to recall that information than if we were to passively experience the information.

The second component of memory is called consolidation and refers to the process where we make the memory of the acquisition more permanent. This is the stage where the short-term memory will convert the information into long-term memory. Much of this stage occurs while we are sleeping as the brain makes connections with the newly acquired information.

Finally, recall is the third stage of memory and is the ability to retrieve the information that was previously acquired and consolidated. The information will leave an imprint on our minds and the stronger it is, the easier that information will be to recall. Sometimes it takes other connections or sense stimuli to remember something and other times we can recall it easily every time.

If you are interested in learning more about the stages of memory, discovering tips for boosting memory, or different types of memory and what they mean, then you can find great articles and other resources at

How Lifestyle Affects Memory

Research shows that many of the things we do every day can affect memory, either positively or negatively. Some of the factors can vastly improve memory if you make positive and healthy lifestyle changes.


Exercise is important for cognition and getting regular physical activity can improve memory in various ways. First, it can help with blood flow that provides the brain with essential nutrients and sufficient oxygen.  Fitness can also reduce insulin resistance and inflammation and can increase the growth and health of brain cells.

Exercise can even affect our stress and anxiety levels and balance out neurotransmitters. Our hormones and other brain chemicals can affect memory in different ways, some negative and some positive.


The things that we eat can also affect memory, but nutritionists do not always agree on how.  However, what is agreed upon is the fact that fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other nutritious food options are great for memory.

Also, excessive sugar can lead to a crash in energy that may reduce focus and make us less likely to acquire the information with a strong connection. Fish is also a good option because it contains omega-3 fatty acids that can be good for blood flow and brain health.


When you don’t get enough sleep, it can make it harder to concentrate and can negatively impact your memory. It is much harder to recall information if you cannot focus. Also, since the consolidation stage or memory takes place while we are sleeping, a lack of sleep can alter the ability to properly store the information. In general, healthy adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to ensure healthy cognition and memory.


Reading is great for the mind as well because it uses many different components of the brain. It may even improve our ability to make associative connections that can make it easier to consolidate and recall information. There is evidence that reading may even be beneficial for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.


Learning a new skill may help to slow cognitive decline because learning utilizes working and long-term memory. Things like crafts, gardening, new languages, music, and others can be great for memory, and taking a class can help us stay involved and communicative. In turn, we keep our mental functions sharp.


Mindfulness may also help with memory by calming the mind. When thoughts are running through our minds without control, it can be hard to pick out a single thought that can be used to make associations with the information we acquire. Mindfulness meditation allows us to see the information without too much distraction and it only takes 5 to 10 minutes each day to see some benefit.


Memory is important and having poor memory can drastically reduce the quality of life. The way that we live each day can affect our memory and just making a few positive life choices may help to improve memory and recall or prevent significant or rapid cognitive decline. Eating healthy, exercising regularly, and using mental capacities can all help us to retain sharp memory.

About the author

Marie Miguel


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