Don't let time take your memories
If you think
getting older automatically means your memory goes downhill, think again. A
recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found
that cognitive decline is not a normal part of aging for most people.
Seventy percent of the study's elderly subjects showed no significant loss
of brain function over a 10-year period.
So don't assume that aging takes away your brain power. You can do a lot
to keep your brain sharp for the rest of your life -- even if you live past
Avoid atherosclerosis. As you get older, your arteries gradually
become less flexible, which could affect blood flow to your brain. If you
also have built-up fatty deposits in your arteries, you're even more likely
to suffer a loss of brain power. The JAMA study found that people with
severe atherosclerosis are at a much higher risk for memory loss.
To keep your brain functioning at its peak for years to come, control
your risk factors for atherosclerosis now. A high-fat diet, smoking, and a
sedentary lifestyle can make you more susceptible to atherosclerosis. So can
high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes. Read more about
these conditions to learn how to avoid them.
Keep moving. You know exercise is good for your body, but did you
know it's also good for your mind ? Aerobic exercise may be particularly
One recent study found that small increases in aerobic fitness improved
mental fitness, especially functions that control the ability to plan and
organize. You don't have to join an aerobics class, either. Study
participants engaged in brisk walking as their aerobic exercise.
And a recent study on mice indicated that exercise may even stimulate the
growth of new brain neurons, which until recently was not believed to occur
in adult mammals.
Break the stress cycle. Cutting stress from your life completely
may be an impossible task, but if you value your memories, you should at
least try to control your stress level.
Research finds that extreme stress causes your hippocampus to shrink.
This is the part of your brain most closely involved with memory. A study of
Vietnam vets with post-traumatic stress syndrome found that those who spent
more time in combat had significantly smaller hippocampi.
You may not have the stress level of a soldier in combat, but controlling
your anxieties may help you hold onto your pleasant memories a little
Feed your brain. Your brain needs nourishment just like your body.
A large study of people over age 60 found memory problems in almost 20
percent of those who skipped meals or did not eat enough. Only 7 percent of
those who are regular meals had poor memories.
Get plenty of vitamin E. The same study found that elderly people
with low levels of vitamin E were more likely to have poor memories. Foods
high in vitamin E include wheat germ oil (and most plant-based oils),
peanuts, and mangoes.