Improving Our Memory

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In many ways, our memories shape who we are. They make up our internal biographies — the stories we tell ourselves about what we've done with our lives. They tell us who we're connected to, who we've touched during our lives, and who has touched us. In short, our memories are crucial to the essence of who we are as human beings.

Memory loss affects the practical side of life. It's a problem when you have trouble remembering how to get from your house to the grocery store or how to do the tasks that make up your job. Losing your memory means both losing your ability to live independently and not being able to remember your past experiences. It's not surprising, then, that concerns about loss of memory and thinking skills ranks among the top fears people have as they age.

And there's no getting around the fact that the ability to remember does change with age. Many of these changes are normal, and not a sign of dementia — the loss of brain function that accompanies Alzheimer's disease or poor blood flow in the brain. Unfortunately, some people have the more serious memory problems that are associated with dementia. If your memory is still healthy — even if you're forgetting a bit more than you'd like — now's the time to commit to protecting your brain and keeping it healthy.

Improving Memory: Understanding age-related memory loss helps you understand the difference between normal, age-related changes in memory and changes caused by dementia. The report also offers tips on how to keep your brain healthy, and how to help improve your memory if you're living with age-related memory loss. One of the key components of this memory-saving program is to keep the rest of your body healthy. Many medical conditions — from heart disease to depression — can affect your memory. Staying physically and mentally active turns out to be among the best prescriptions for maintaining a healthy brain and a resilient memory. This report discusses new research on this subject and strategies that may help.

www.health.harvard.edu