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A Not so Secret Lifestyle Formula Really can Keep Memory Intact

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
What lifestyle factors help us keep our memory early in life?

The worst forms of memory loss include dementia and Alzheimer's disease that can be heralded by small lapses in memory earlier in life. How do you make sure your own memory stays sharp with aging? Researchers have uncovered the not-so secret formula is simply by making healthy lifestyle choices.

For their study, UCLA researchers and the Gallup organization conducted a nationwide poll of more than 18,500 people between the ages of 18 and 99.

Included in the poll were questions about if and how much the individuals smoked, what they ate and how often they exercised. They were also asked about their memory.

Surprisingly, 14 percent of younger adults complained about memory loss compared to 26 percent of older adults and 22 percent of middle-aged respondents.

Not surprisingly though, was that people who don't smoke and exercise regularly and eat healthy foods reported they thought their memories were good, though some trouble remembering was associated with age.

The healthiest behaviors were reported among people age 60 to 99, compared to middle-age and younger adults age 18 to 39.

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Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA who holds the Parlow–Solomon Chair on Aging said in a press release the finding means middle age and young adults may need education about the importance of practicing a healthy lifestyle that can prevent diseases and also help keep memory intact.

The poll that included phone interviews with U.S. adults captured a representative 90 percent of the population, the researchers said. The healthier the lifestyle, the fewer memory problems were reported, said senior author Fernando Torres-Gil, a professor at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs and associate director of the UCLA Longevity Center.

Just practicing one healthy lifestyle behavior was linked to 21 percent lower likelihood of being forgetful compared to people who did not engage in any healthy practices.

Two healthy lifestyle factors was associated with a 45 percent lower chance of memory issues and a 75 percent less chance of having memory problems.

Seventy percent of older adults reported making healthy lifestyle choices like not smoking, compared to just 61 percent of middle-aged individuals and 58 percent of younger respondents.

Small said more studies are needed to find out why younger adults report problems with memory. It might be from stress, multi-tasking or technology that makes it harder to focus, compared to middle age and older adults.

The study is published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.

Keeping your memory intact may be by simply following a healthy lifestyle. - eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, don't smoke, engage in regular exercise and is you are age 18 to 39, perhaps by texting, multi-tasking and a little less time on the internet.