Memory Loss is not Inevitable with Ageing

Published June 6th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Experts say that memory loss is not a thing people cannot avoid as they become old. There are things we can do about it, they said, according to a report by the Associated Press Monday. 

Memory loss isn't inevitable as your grow older, says Dr. Michael Freedman, Diane and Arthur Belfer professor of geriatric medicine at New York University Medical Center.  

The agency quoted the expert as saying that stress, depression, loss and grief, inactivity, physical illness, medication side effects, vision or hearing problems, and fatigue all can affect memory. Sometimes it can be a sign of a more serious problem such as Alzheimer's disease.  

But whatever the cause, people can do something about their memory loss. Freedman has these tips for keeping your memory in shape:  

Exercise. This helps the brain make more cytokines, hormone-like proteins that help preserve memory. Exercise also decreases stress and increases blood circulation to all parts of the body, including the brain.  

Use it. Make sure your brain gets enough exercise, too. Stimulate it with intellectual activities. Take a course, read a book, keep up with current events, learn something new, or join a book or investment club.  

Play games. Any game that involves thinking — from bridge or solitaire to "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" — can stimulate memory. When people begin to lose memory, an early symptom often is the inability to judge spatial relationships. Games stimulate the portion of the brain that controls spatial relationships and the ability to judge visual clues.  

Feed it. You need a well-balanced diet including all food groups. Especially important is protein, a good source of vitamin B12, because 20 to 25 percent of people with dementia have been found to suffer from a deficiency in that vitamin, Freedman says.  

See a doctor. If friends or family begin noticing memory lapses or personality changes, a visit to a doctor with training in geriatrics, neurology of psychiatry may be in order. Besides memory lapses, other clues to problems might be acting out, loss of inhibition, or depression. Medications, including antidepressants, can help people with memory loss.  

Get help from friends and family. If you're experiencing memory problems, trust those nearest you. People having memory lapses often are in denial — frightened and often very stubborn. Friends and family can help by being patient and loving and controlling their tempers, recognizing that your memory loss is beyond your control.  

Stress-free travel. Plan ahead. Make sure you have written directions and enough time to reach your destination. If you're going somewhere new, and you have the time, do a trial run.  

Use tricks to jog your memory. Write things down. Make lists, maintain calendars or appointment books, jot reminder notes. Use alarm clocks or cooking timers to remind yourself to do things, or leave a reminder message on your answering machine. Put bills that need to be paid on the kitchen table; put the garbage to be taken out right next to the door. If you link a visual image to a task, number, name or person, you're more likely to remember it.  

Start young. Freedman cites evidence that people with certain medical problems, such as diabetes, thyroid conditions, high blood pressure, and certain vitamin deficiencies have a higher risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer's, or memory loss later in life. And, he says, it's never too late to make healthy changes in your lifestyle –  


© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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