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Healthy lifestyle helps seniors stave off memory problems

June 4, 2013

Memory complaints are common among older adults, even for those who don't have Alzheimer's disease, but new research suggests that such cognitive issues are not necessarily inevitable. A team of scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that following a healthy lifestyle for seniors through diet and exercise translated to better memory, according to the findings published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics. 

The results were drawn from an extensive poll conducted by UCLA and Gallup. Researchers surveyed more than 18,500 people ranging in age from 18 to 99 and asked them about their lifestyle habits including what they ate, whether they smoked and how much they exercised. The findings revealed that, across all age groups, respondents who followed a healthier lifestyle had better self-reported memory. While the team was not surprised by that, they were not expecting to discover that adults between 60 and 99 were more likely to follow healthy behaviors than the two younger age groups.

"We found that the more healthy lifestyle behaviors were practiced, the less likely one was to complain about memory issues," said senior author Fernando Torres-Gil.

Preventing memory loss is an important aspect of healthy aging. Cognitive health will not only reduce the need for services such as memory care, it also helps seniors maintain their independence, and according to the Mayo Clinic, there are some steps older adults can take outside of diet and exercise to boost their brain power. For one, mental activity, whether it be taking continuing education classes or completing the daily crossword puzzle, can have a significant impact. Social engagement can also play an important role because of the positive effect it has on factors such as depression and loneliness.