While Alzheimer's disease and other age-related memory problems affect many older adults, the loss of memory during old-age might not inevitable. Certain abilities do tend to decline with age, but researchers have found that individuals in their 70s often perform just as well on many cognitive tests as do those in their 20s. Some types of memory even increase with age.
While researchers are still working to understand why exactly some elderly adults manage to maintain an excellent memory while other struggle, a few factors have been implicated so far. First, many experts believe that there is a genetic component to memory retention during old age. Secondly, lifestyle choices are also believed to play an important role.
"I think it's a nature-nurture interaction, in large part," Dr. Bruce S. McEwen, a professor at Rockefeller University in New York, explained to The New York Times. "'A genetic vulnerability increases the likelihood that experience will have an effect."
So what are some steps you can take to stave of the negative effects of aging?
According to one decade-long study, having a strong sense of self-efficacy has been associated with maintaining good memory abilities during old age. Self-efficacy refers to the sense of control that people have over their own lives and destiny. This strong sense of self-efficacy has also been linked to lowered stress levels. As mentioned previously, high levels of chronic stress have been connected to deterioration in the memory centers of the brain.
While there is no simple "quick fix" for ensuring that your memory stays intact as you age, researchers believe that avoiding stress, leading an active lifestyle, and remaining mentally engaged are important ways to decrease your risk of memory loss.
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