What can I do to prevent memory loss as I age?

Deepak Chopra
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Most people have at least a passing concern about their memory as they get older. In this video, health expert and founder of the Chopra Foundation and the Chopra Center for Wellbeing Deepak Chopra, MD, talks about simple ways to tune up your memory.
Research has demonstrated that intellectual activities may reduce our risk for serious memory impairment. For example, one study at the Rush University Medical Center in Illinois found that folks who reported participating regularly in such activities had an associated reduced risk for memory impairment of approximately 26%. While no one knows why intellectual engagement seems to have protective benefits for the brain, one prevailing theory suggests that such activities give us "cognitive reserve" which provides a cushion so that symptoms of memory impairment will be delayed.
30 Days to Total Brain Health®

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30 Days to Total Brain Health®

Get ready to make the move to better brain health! In this remarkably effective, scientifically-grounded plan, Dr. Cynthia Green, a clinical psychologist and one of the country's most notable experts...
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
You can cultivate your memory, quick recall, and mental sharpness even if you can't fit all your candles on a birthday cake. For sustainable brainpower and to help prevent memory loss, what matters most is what you do with your mind -- and not just before age 60, but after also.

That's a revolutionary idea. The old battle plan to prevent memory loss was to use tricks to help you cope. Well, humbug! You want brain maintenance, not indulgence. The key to a clear-headed old age is physical activity, good nutrition, mental challenges, and social connections:
  • Move it or lose it. Physical activity helps prevent loss of gray matter and promotes the growth of neurons that process thoughts and shuttle memories. Walking for 15 minutes every day is good; 30 minutes six days a week is even better. What's best, however, is to walk 10,000 steps a day.
  • Groove it or lose it. Turns out dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps control info, especially memory), decreases with age, but increases with sexual activity. Need we say more? Cuddle, kick up your heels, and make memories together.
  • Grill it or lose it. Lean, mean, thinking machines are fueled not by oil and fat (saturated fat actually kills memories), but by lean protein (never fried), fiber, 100% whole grains, and dark greens, such as broccoli. Add docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3s, turmeric, caffeine, and aspirin (if your doc recommends) and you'll remember those fun parts!
A certain increase in forgetfulness seems to be a normal byproduct of aging and is perhaps a result of changes in the brain that begin around age 50, such as a gradual loss of receptors on brain cells and a decline in certain neurotransmitters. Researchers disagree over how much deterioration is normal.

Memory loss isn't inevitable, though. There are many things you can do to preserve or sharpen your memory, including learning memory-enhancing techniques, reducing stress, and improving your organizational techniques (for example, always writing down appointments or having a designated spot for belongings such as keys and eyeglasses). It's also important to regularly challenge your mind with activities such as reading, doing crossword puzzles, playing chess, or taking classes. Experts believe that these kinds of activities help build and maintain synapses, the small gaps between neurons that enable them to communicate with one another.

Much age-related mental decline is due to poor vision or hearing, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sleep disturbances, alcohol abuse, depression, or medications. Addressing these conditions can also make a difference.
Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine

Research has pinpointed an unexpected reason many people experience memory problems as they age. Click on this video to hear Dr. Robin Miller explain the cause, and how to protect yourself.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
To help prevent memory loss as you age, try 25 micrograms of vitamin B12 either orally or under the tongue per day.

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Dr. David L. Katz, MD, MPH
Preventive Medicine
A healthy brain is the best defense against memory decline. Don’t smoke, eat well, and be active -- and exercise your brain just like your body through reading, crossword puzzles, games like Sudoku and whatever poses a challenge.
Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

If you find that your memory is failing you a bit, try these proven memory enhancing tricks, which work for people at any age:

  • Be selective about what you want to remember. There are usually only a few major points in any discussion, so try to define what they are.
  • Try saying the points out loud. Write them down. Read them. Say them out loud again.
  • Work in a place where you can minimize distractions.
  • Draw key facts out in a diagram or a story.This gives the brain a different way of storing and later retrieving the information.
  • Ask yourself questions about the information you want to learn.
  • Use flash cards to force yourself to recall the information. Your brain remembers things better when you ask it questions or require it to give answers.
  • Make associations of things that are familiar to you with the things you are working to remember. For example, if you meet someone and her name is Betty, you can make some mental note about her that has to do with your favorite Aunt Betty.
  • Keep all papers organized for easy retrieval. Maintain a filing system. Have a day planner where you record all your appointments. Have specific places where you keep things such as your keys or glasses.
  • Purge all unnecessary papers and things. Avoid being a pack rat. It is easier to keep your brain uncluttered if the world around you is organized.
  • Create rituals and mental cues to help you retrieve information. It is easier to remember to feed the dog or take out the trash if you tie these routines together rather than doing them haphazardly throughout the day.
  • Finally, keep your brain active. It's just like a muscle in that it needs to be exercised or it atrophies. Use it or lose. Learn a foreign language, play bridge or chess, learn to play a musical instrument, take on new art projects such as water coloring or sculpturing. Take classes in something you've always been interested in. Force yourself to do new things even if they are a bit out of your comfort zone. In fact, try to push yourself out of your comfort zone on a regular basis. This is how you stimulate your brain to grow. If you are an accountant and your brain is used largely to process numbers, force yourself to take on a more artistic hobby to stretch your brain a little.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.