Real Possibilities

May 14-20, 2018

Guarding your memory

Part 1. What to do


By Nan Selz
Executive Council, AARP Arkansas


As of this writing, there is no sure fix for memory loss. Researchers have, however, found several lifestyle factors that can influence your ability to remember things. This article will review some of the things that work. Next month the column will discuss things that are rumored to work but don’t.


Physical activity works! You should aim to get 150 minutes of purposeful physical activity every week. You can walk briskly, play tennis, ride a bike, lift weights, swim laps or do something comparatively active. In 2017, the National Academy of Science determined that physical fitness may be the best way to avoid cognitive impairment and dementia. Additionally, it can make a difference in as little as six months.


A healthy diet can help. There’s no single miracle food for brain health, but eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil are good for your heart, and a 2017 study of 6,000 participants published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society indicates that people who followed these dietary recommendations had a 35 percent lower risk of cognitive impairment than people who didn’t. It seems that your brain and your heart respond well to similar eating patterns.


Manage your blood pressure. High blood pressure may damage the small blood vessels in your brain. A study published in the October 2017 issue of Neurology showed that women who developed high blood pressure in their 40’s experienced a 73 per cent increased risk of dementia compared with those with normal blood pressure.


Maintain relationships with friends and family. Activities like learning a new language can be helpful, but the importance of social interaction cannot be ignored. The feedback and encouragement you get from doing things with others make these new activities even better for your brain. Healthy interpersonal relationships help you avoid isolation which can lead to depression. A report, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2013, found that depressed older adults are more than twice as likely to develop vascular dementia and 65 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those who were not depressed.


Studies of the brain are difficult and require large numbers of participants over long periods of time. Scientists are gradually zeroing in on lifestyle patterns that can help you guard your memory. Next month we’ll explore some of the misleading claims and urban myths about avoiding dementia. In the meantime, AARP’s website ( can keep you current on the latest research into brain health.


  • Nan Selz
    Nan Selz