The other day I saw a hysterical video of a woman singing a parody of the song "Memories" from the Broadway musical Cats. The song makes fun of the natural memory loss that most people experience as they age. While the video was funny it touches on a much more serious (and not at all humorous) point about serious memory loss. The emotional toll that profound memory loss places on a family is tremendous. While science hasn’t offered us all the answers, we are getting clearer as to why it happens and some ways we may be able to prevent it.
People are living longer and therefore doctors are seeing more and more degenerative brain disorders such as Dementia. While the likelihood that a person will suffer dementia is in part determined by their genetics, advanced age plays a major role in its development. There are other factors that contribute to these disorders which include things such as blood pressure and being overweight. Studies have even shown that education in early life can help prevent some of these memory loss disorders. But it is never too late to start exercising your brain.
Dr. Laura Fratiglioni at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm has done research showing that what is good for the heart is good for the brain. This means regular cardiovascular exercise and good nutrition. As we age, our lifestyle may slow down but we need to remain an active participant in life and continue to challenge our intellect. Learning a new skill, which requires concentration, helps to stimulate our brains along with staying connected to others in a meaningful way. So while occasionally forgetting of where one put the car keys or wondering what you walked into the room for in the first place may illicit giggles when commiserating with same-aged friends about the plight of aging, we all need to take steps in our daily life to avoid, to the best of our ability, the serious consequences that accompany profound memory loss.