How to Keep the Mind Young and Memory Sharp
Memory generally starts to decline in our 30s, as the brain shrinks with age. One of the first and most prominent signs is that ‘tip of the tongue’ phenomenon,” advises neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt, Ph.D., co-author of Welcome to Your Brain.
Studies show that the adult brain can shrink as much as one-half to 1 percent annually in midlife, as neurons in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus wither and the branches between them thin. Add hormonal changes, which can starve gray matter of nourishing estrogen and progesterone; less-than-stellar cardiovascular health, which tends to limit blood flow to the brain; and a gummy protein called amyloid plaque, which can hamper neuronal function; and cognitive decline may be exacerbated.
Already, one in five people older than 65 suffer from “mild cognitive impairment” (persistent memory problems severe enough to be noticeable by others). According to the Alzheimer’s Association, if we live to age 90, as many as half of us could ultimately be diagnosed with that disease.
The good news: Such fates are far from inevitable.
“People seem to expect that as soon as we start to need reading glasses, we should also expect some of these cognitive issues to arise, but it does not need to be that way,” says Naples, Florida-based Neurology Doctor David Perlmutter, co-author of Power up Your Brain. “You can absolutely do things early on in life and throughout your lifetime that work to maintain the bulk and function of the brain.”