When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened.” The author, humorist and journalist Mark Twain wrote this when he was 75. A century later, folks are still blaming aging for their memory problems. But based on encouraging new research, it might be time to rethink the commonly held view that aging is a main factor for mental decline and memory loss.
Our brains do in fact shrink as we age, which may account for some decline in brain function — including memory. But what’s got researchers all abuzz is that getting older doesn’t have to mean you’re destined for a life of lost car keys. A growing body of research points toward lifestyle as having a much bigger impact on our ability to process, store and recall information. That means what we eat and drink, how much (or little) we sleep, how we socialize, what medications we take, how much physical activity we get and even what we do for a living all matter. The reason that’s so exciting: Unlike genetics and aging — two uncontrollable things that also account for our brain health — how we live our lives is, to a great extent, within our control.
With that said, who wouldn’t want to take a proactive stance to maintain, and in some cases reclaim, brain health? After all, an intact memory allows you to remember a name, hold a job, drive a car, live independently and enjoy reading, biking, knitting, playing the guitar and your children and friends.