Time Magazine Features Article, "Forgetting Is the New Normal"
I must admit that I had never thought about the statistics before. The latest issue of Time features an article by Sue Halpern entitled, "Forgetting Is the New Normal." She notes that 14 million people in the United States will develop Alzheimer's disease in the next 40 years. Furthermore, 50% of the population will develop symptoms of Alzheimer's by age 85. However, the average U.S. life expectancy is 80.4 years for women and 75.2 years for men, meaning that most people will die before Alzheimer's sets in.
Halpern's article, adapted from her new book, Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research, also goes into how the brain functions as well as why it slows down. The author describes some of the research that hopes to slow or stop the loss of brain function as we age. Some of the findings that are reported:
- Older brains often can't shut out multiple stimuli since concentration fades. (Yes, that's another reminder of why we need to focus on what we're doing and not try to multi-task.)
- Exercise matters! People who exercise more do better on many memory tests. And aerobic exercise is the gold standard since it's been shown to increase brain volume in areas of the brain associated with age-related decline due to structure and cognition.
- Diet matters! Eating certain foods such as blueberries and walnuts may improve mental abilities as we age.
We've been reading a lot in the past two years about how exercise and diet can make a difference in slowing cognitive decline. Halpern's article provides one more source of the latest news of what's good for you and what's going on in the research field. Halpern says it best: "...figuring out how memory works is the most important step in figuring out how it can be fixed. When you can make some of the fixes yourself, the news is even better. If you needed one more reason to get your exercise and watch your diet, the memory scientists are providing you with one - even if you have to write it down."