Preventing Senior Memory Loss

Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline are things that most of us fear, but a degree of memory loss is expected and accepted as a normal part of aging. Recent studies are showing a contradiction to memory loss as a norm, however. With certain combinations of physical and mental activities, scientists are finding that memory loss can be prevented and brain health can be preserved.

Why Does Memory Decline with Age?

Brain cells begin to die at a faster rate after middle age, with neuroscientists estimating that as many as one percent of brain cells are lost each year after middle age has been reached. The connections between brain cells also weaken without use, making information more difficult to retain and recall. Since older adults often retire and discontinue customary habits, memory loss can be expedited.

Memory Loss Due to Medical Conditions

Memory loss may sometimes be related to health conditions and issues that are treatable. Vitamin deficiencies, blood clots in the brain, liver and kidney disorders, and tumors can cause memory loss. Medications may also cause memory loss as a side effect. For this reason, memory loss should always be examined as a potential symptom of a greater problem until medical causes have been ruled out.

Memory Loss and Lifestyle Factors

Genetics haven’t been found to have a great impact on memory loss or preservation, as even identical twins can have different rates of memory loss. Lifestyle factors that have been found to play a more significant role in memory are education and profession. Those with a higher education and that exercised the brain regularly for their professions were found to have slower rates of cognitive decline than others.

Researchers attribute the link between education or profession and preservation of cognitive functions to a greater number of connections between brain cells and a higher level of production of new brain cells. When new information is learned regularly, new connections form between brain cells and new brain cells are actually grown. This makes it easier to retain and recall information, because even when some connections and brain cells are lost, others remain.

Tips for Preventing Memory Loss

Since different activities stimulate different areas of the brain and connections between brain cells, maintaining an active lifestyle and participating in varied activities has shown to have a positive impact on preserving memory function. Simple mental and physical activities have been found to be effective in preventing memory loss.

Some activities that may help to prevent memory loss include:

  • Participating in social events
  • Visiting with friends and relatives regularly
  • Playing brain games such as Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and bridge
  • Exercising, including dance, aerobics, and yoga
  • Playing musical instruments, especially learning to play new instruments
  • Reading daily