When memory fades, is it all over?

Most of us know the feeling — a mom, a friend, a neighbor who’d seemed just a little spacey for the last few months has taken up residence in a “memory unit.” And some of us (OK, I’m older than you are, so you can relax now) stuff that sorrowful feeling down inside, right next to the fear that arose over where in the world I put the car keys.

Maybe we should all relax. Because anxieties can make you forget even more, and research shows that  “buying into the stereotype that memory function automatically dwindles with age could become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” according to reports just published on a new favorite health/science website of mine, RealAge.com.

At least that’s what happened in one study. When older adults (ages 60 to 70 years) were given cues that people their age tend to suffer from memory loss, they actually performed more poorly on memory tests than a control group not exposed to such cues. Likewise, older adults who felt looked down upon — or stigmatized — due to age also fared poorly on memory tests. Bottom line: Anxious thoughts about negative stereotypes may disrupt your working memory. So think positive!

The site is a new favorite partly because it has a “Find your real age” thing which determined that I am younger than 76.5 and why should one argue. RealAge does concede that positive thinking will not guarantee memory retention, but then plunges right ahead with other suggestions. Such as staying in touch with family and friends:

In a study of 16,638 older adults, people who were married, active in volunteer groups, and in regular contact with friends, family, and neighbors had slower declines in memory than their less social counterparts. In fact, declines in the most socially active types were about half of those in the least social group.

Or eating the right stuff: fish, nuts, real chocolate!; or walking a lot; or, and here’s the winner, taking power naps:

People who take daytime naps outperform non-nappers on memory exercises. And, surprisingly, a mere 6 minutes of shut-eye is enough to refresh the mind. How does a quick catnap power up your thinker? Seems the mere act of falling asleep triggers a brain-boosting neurobiological process that remains effective regardless of how long you snooze.

What’s not to love about a resource that advises hanging out with friends, eating almonds and chocolate and taking power naps? Now, if there were just something in there about where I put the keys…

Expect to Keep Your Memory – Health Tip – realage.com.

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