A variety of factors come into play when considering brain and cognitive health. Environmental factors may seem insignificant, but in reality, they play a crucial role in determining the status of one’s brain health including memory. Environmental factors can be changed, however. They can be manipulated to allow you to become healthier and thus reduce the risk that it poses on memory and cognition. Following is a list of environmental factors that are known to affect memory.
Studies suggest that an active social life plays an integral role in stabilizing memory loss in the later years of life. Maintaining strong social ties with friends, family, community groups and colleagues has been shown to improve brain health. On the other end of the spectrum, social isolation increases the risk of developing a cognitive decline in old age.
Recent research carried out in the Harvard School of Public Health studied the memory status of adults over two years. The study took into account the participant’s social integration based on marital status, volunteer activities, and relations with immediate surroundings including friends, family, neighbors, etc.
The results showed that the older age demographic with increased social activity revealed the slowest rate of memory decline. In contrast, participants with the least social interaction exhibited twice the rate of memory deterioration than those with high social integration scores. The study deduced that social interaction ensures mental engagement which enables the mind to stay active.
Therefore, people with healthy social circles have a better quality of life. They also have a reduced incidence of developing memory related issues as compared to the individuals who spend their lives in isolation.
Exposure to environmental toxins in today’s age is becoming increasingly common and inevitable. Repeated exposure to these contaminants can increase your susceptibility to developing mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and in some cases, even Alzheimer’s disease. Your diet, lifestyle, and genetic makeup already play a role in the risk for mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. In all cases, it is prudent to consider environmental toxins as risk factors.
According to a study, 20% of those living with a cognitive disorder had a history of exposure to chemicals at work or elsewhere. Research proves that early-onset mild cognitive impairment and dementia are associated with a history of toxic exposure. Additionally, studies reveal that certain pesticides and solvents may also increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia.
The three most damaging environmental toxins concerning memory include lead, aluminum, and PCB.
Lead is a toxic element that has been shown to result in accelerated cognitive decline. Individuals with higher lead toxicity revealed an additional 15 years of cognitive aging compared to those with reduced exposure to the toxin. Prenatal exposure has been studied to trigger genes that lead to increased production of abnormal brain proteins associated with mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. There is no safe level of lead exposure; therefore, it is advised to avoid exposure to it in every way possible.
Aluminum has also been studied to result in mild cognitive impairment and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Antiperspirants contain aluminum which increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by a staggering 60%. In addition to antiperspirants, aluminum may also accumulate in the brain from dietary sources.
Polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs were increasingly used in the manufacture of flame retardants, plasticizers, lubricants, and adhesives; however, their use was banned in the 1970s. Since they do not break down easily, PCBs have resulted in significant environmental pollution. Despite the ban on PCBs, they still continue to affect many in multiple ways including the consumption of contaminated fish. PCBs affect fetal brain development and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Spending time Outdoors with Nature:
Research proves that spending time outdoors in nature can contribute significantly to boosting short-term memory. A study at the University of Michigan revealed the effects of time spent outdoors and its impact on memory.
The study observed two groups of students and compared the impact of nature on their memory. One of the groups was asked to take a walk in the city, and the other was asked to spend time with greenery and nature. The results showed that the group who spent time in nature recorded 20% better results than the other group. The group which was asked to take a walk in the city showed no significant improvement in memory or change for that matter.
Spending time in nature can help restore mental energy. Outdoor activities are considered great restorative actions. They are perfect for getting out of the stage of mental fatigue. Natural beauty elicits a feeling of admiration and awe which in turn allows you to appreciate the environment and immediate surroundings. Online dementia test reveal that individuals who spent time outdoors exhibit improved cognitive function and memory.
A casual stroll outside can help one feel more rejuvenated and restored. This results in improved focus and concentration and thus improved performance. Moreover, spending time outdoors surrounded by nature is excellent for children with ADHD.
We live in a world surrounded by infections. There are certain infections that are particularly damaging to the brain and result in significant cognitive impairment. One such infection is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease which is an infection of the brain that results in rapidly progressive dementia. It is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.
Other infections that may affect the brain include HIV and AIDS which can lead to multiple neurocognitive symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Syphilis is another transmissible infection that can produce severe cognitive changes in its later stages.
Brain infections act on the central nervous system through the production of neurotoxins and instigate an inflammatory reaction. This results in toxic byproducts. Generally, brain infections can be cured, but there are some infections whose impact can be halted but not completely reversed. Memory loss is a common outcome of brain infections so it would be prudent to be careful and avoid infections in every possible way.
Education and Learning:
Education is a crucial aspect of your life. A fundamental right and an integral part of your upbringing, education, and learning allow the mind to develop and progress. The duration of education has an effect on memory, brain function, and cognitive performance.
The length of education has a significant impact on memory retention in the later years of life. According to research, further education reduced the risk of developing dementia, especially in women. Your mental ability also has a role in determining your quality of life.
Environmental factors play a role in brain health and memory. It is prudent to incorporate certain measures and changes in your day-to-day routine. This will help you lead a healthier life and a future free from the risks of faltered memories.
ABOUT Alycia Gordan
Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia