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Gedächtnisverlust mit zunehmendem Alter verhindern

von NFI Redaktion

Janis Maras used to cope with constantly forgetting her shopping list and had made a habit of writing down where she parked her car each time. But in her mid-50s, memory problems started costing her money. Late fees were piling up because she forgot to pay her bills.

„Over time, it really intensified,“ she says. „I wanted to believe it was just aging, but I was afraid it was Alzheimer’s.“

After pushing her HMO for an MRI scan, Mara found out that her lapses were nothing to worry about; she was simply experiencing age-related memory loss.

According to Kirk Erickson, a psychology postdoc at the University of Illinois who studies the relationship between memory and aging, these pesky moments for seniors result from declining brain activity that starts in the 50s, affecting most people over 65 with certain lifestyle habits.

Scientists don’t know if age-related memory loss is caused by reduced brain blood flow or loss of brain cells. Various brain regions can be affected.

It’s normal to forget names, where you left your keys, or what you were just doing. But forgetting a family member’s name or the use of those keys might suggest more serious issues.

You may feel like your brain is turning to mush, but age-related memory loss doesn’t always get worse. In fact, older people can outperform younger counterparts in some memory tasks, such as crossword puzzles, says Erickson. Plus, you can halt the decline and even reverse some losses.

How? Through positive lifestyle changes— the same habits that protect your heart, bones, and lungs, says Erickson. And it’s never too late. „The brain is relatively malleable,“ Erickson says, „even into old age.“

Erickson recommends these tactics to keep neurons and nerve cells in the brain active:

Exercise: Aerobic training boosts brain blood flow, fosters new neuron development, and forms more connections between them. All you need is 45 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, for example, three times a week, to benefit.

Balanced Diet: Animals in lab studies fed a nutrient-rich diet are smarter than those poorly nourished. This may apply to humans, says Erickson.

Vitamins: In Erickson’s studies, people taking vitamin supplements tended to have less brain shrinkage than those who didn’t. While it’s possible that vitamin takers may make other healthy choices that protect their brains, covering the daily minimum requirement of Vitamin C, E, B6, B12, and folic acid is a good safeguard.

Lifelong Learning: Acquiring a new skill, whether it’s dancing or Sudoku, helps sharpen your attention span. The benefits go beyond the task itself; solving a puzzle can improve concentration while driving.

Mara, already a fitness enthusiast, notes that overcoming her initial frustration in processing new information has made her sharper. „My experience is that learning something new almost immediately helps,“ she says.

Originally published in the November/December 2007 issue of WebMD the Magazine.

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