It's normal to forget things from time to time. For example, you may forget where you parked your car at the mall or where you left your glasses. As you age, instances of forgetfulness can become more frequent, and it may concern you. You may even wonder if you should be worried about it and want to learn how to prevent memory loss in old age. In this article, we'll explore memory and what you can do to preserve it.
What is Memory?
Although memory and how it works is a complicated process, when we bring it down to its simplest form, it's the continued processing, collecting and storing of information over time. As humans, we use it to recall and draw upon knowledge and events to help frame our understanding of the world around us. (1)
What Is Memory Loss?
Memory loss is when you have trouble recalling things you already know. It can be a temporary loss, as if something is on the tip of your tongue or a more serious problem.
As you age, memory loss can occur more frequently and may cause you to be concerned about whether it's serious. According to the National Institute on Aging, most older adults worry about whether their memory loss could be a sign of cognitive decline that could lead to dementia or Alzheimer's.
What's Considered Normal Memory Loss?
Typically, when you reach your 40s or 50s, you'll experience some forgetfulness, such as:
- Taking more time than usual to remember things.
- Not feeling as mentally sharp.
- Becoming easily distracted.
- Unable to multitask.
- Forgetting names.
While it can be irritating to forget things more frequently than you're used to, according to research, (2) of the 40% of people aged 65 or above who report age-related memory problems, only 1% of them per year will progress into dementia.
What Causes Memory Loss?
Although it's typical to blame aging for the problems with memory loss, there are a variety of factors that can contribute to it, including: (3)
- Injury and accidents. Head injuries of any kind can interfere with processing thoughts and memory.
- Sleep deprivation and insomnia. The inability to sleep interferes with your ability to store memories for recall later.
- Stress. Long-term and chronic stress takes a toll on how you function and can cause problems with memory.
- Medications. Various medications and prescription drugs can interfere with memory.
- Disease and illness. Several conditions can cause memory loss, including Parkinson's, dementia, and Alzheimer's.
- Alcohol and illegal drugs. Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can damage brain cells and contribute to memory loss. If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation to prevent memory loss, and if you smoke, consider seeking help to quit.
- Low testosterone. Studies show that individuals with low testosterone levels may experience difficulties with concentration, verbal memory, and overall cognitive performance. Additionally, Low T has been associated with an increased risk of conditions like Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Maintaining testosterone levels using TRT is shown (X) to prevent memory loss risk.
It's important to understand that cognitive changes can occur throughout a lifetime. A variety of factors can bring it on. But it doesn't necessarily mean it's anything more than becoming a bit more forgetful. Can we do anything to preserve cognitive function and prevent memory loss as we age?
What to Do to Prevent Memory Loss
While you may not have total control over all aspects of memory, there are things you can do to keep your brain healthy and work on skills to enhance your mental function to remain sharp, even as you age.
Eat a High Nutrient Diet
According to studies, (4) cognitive capacity can be influenced by components of the diet. A healthy diet focused on low glycemic index foods, such as leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils and nuts, improves attention, memory and functional capacity. In contrast, those rich in simple sugars present in processed foods are associated with difficulty concentrating and attention.
The best foods to prevent memory loss and the risk of developing memory problems are: (5)
- Dark leafy greens
- Whole grains
- Fatty fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Herbs and spices
Being physically active also engages your mind, so a fitness plan is vital for keeping both body and mind engaged and healthy to prevent memory loss. Whether you've been working out for a while or are just getting started, scheduling some activity for a minimum of 30 minutes per session on most days of the week is a great place to start. (6)
Get Quality Sleep
As you sleep, your brain rejuvenates as you move through sleep cycles and plays a critical role in forming and storing memories. Anyone who has experienced a night without sleep can tell you how hard it is to pay attention and function properly the next day. It can interfere with learning and take a toll on your mental health. Sleep is vital for keeping us healthy and alert, allowing us to prevent memory loss. (7)
Dehydration can impair cognitive function, so drinking enough water throughout the day is important. Aim for at least eight glasses of water daily and reduce the intake of sugary and caffeinated beverages.
There are plenty of fun mental exercises to keep your brain active and prevent memory loss that challenge the brain and your memory. Here are a few of the most popular ways to stay engaged. (8)
- Crossword puzzles
- Word search
- Art and crafts
- Logic puzzles
- jigsaw puzzles
- Learning a new language
According to research, having a social life is good for your memory. Being socially active, especially as you age, has various mental and physical health benefits, including protecting you from cognitive decline and memory and improving your quality of life. (9)(10)
Balance Your Hormones
Typically, when considering the role of hormones in the human body, sexual health and reproduction come to mind, but what's not widely known or understood is the connection between hormones and brain health.
When protecting memory and cognitive function, hormones play a crucial role. Even before birth, our hormones are one of the most significant factors in regulating how the body functions and are critical in regulating growth, energy, emotional and brain development, mood, memory and cognitive function. (11) To prevent memory loss, one key factor is to keep hormones balanced throughout your life, especially as you age.
Potential Influence of TRT on Alzheimer's
Amyloid plaques and tau proteins are abnormal protein accumulations that form in the brain and are closely associated with the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease. Some studies have suggested that testosterone may have a protective effect on the brain. TRT may influence tau proteins and amyloid plaques by potentially reducing their accumulation or delaying their development.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) can indirectly influence brain health by converting into estrogen. When administered as TRT, testosterone can be converted into estradiol, a form of estrogen associated with several neuroprotective effects in the brain.
Estradiol supports the junctions between neurons that allow them to communicate better. So, estradiol enhances cognitive function, protecting against age-related cognitive decline and may help prevent memory loss. This conversion highlights the complex relationship between testosterone, estrogen, and brain health, underlining the importance of carefully managed TRT in maintaining cognitive function, particularly in aging men.
We're not always able to control everything in our lives, but to prevent memory loss, doing what you can plays a big part.
Although being forgetful now and then is normal for anyone, when it occurs more frequently, it can be frightening and a cause for concern in some circumstances. If it affects your ability to live your life normally and do the activities you enjoy, or your memory seems to worsen over time, it could be a sign of serious cognitive problems. It may be a good time to contact your medical practitioner for help. They can help determine what could be causing the issues and give you any necessary diagnostic tests.
In addition to these strategies, consider Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) as a potential tool to prevent memory loss and support cognitive function. While some memory decline is a natural part of the aging process, adopting a healthy lifestyle and exploring medical interventions like TRT can significantly slow down this process and reduce the risk of memory loss.
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