A new study has found that a healthy lifestyle is linked to better memory across all adult age groups, even if you are younger than 40. UCLA researchers and the Gallup organization worked on a poll of 18,552 U.S. adults 18 and older. They found that healthy eating, not smoking and exercising regularly were linked to better self-perceived memory abilities. Those across all age groups who engaged in just one of those healthy behaviors were 21% less likely to report memory problems than those who didn’t engage in such behaviors. Researchers were surprised to find that about 14% of the youngest group, ages 18-39, complained about their memory. About 22% of middle-age adults, ages 40-59, and 26% of older adults, ages 60-99, had memory problems.
“Memory issues were to be expected in the middle-aged and older groups, but not in younger people,” says the study’s lead author, Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center. Their memory problems may differ from those in older adults in general, for example stress may play a bigger role for them, says Small. The survey’s findings still reinforce the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle at all ages to help limit cognitive decline.
“Along with the other healthy behaviors, it’s likely that healthy eating is helping keep the heart and blood vessels healthy,” says Mary Ann Johnson, national spokeswoman for the not-for-profit American Society for Nutrition. “The brain needs a healthy blood supply to function.” Protecting one’s memory isn’t just for older adults. “We think of losing one’s memory as late in life, but it is a very long process that has been playing out over decades.”
Neil Levin, spokesman for the not-for-profit American Nutrition Association, says, “The earlier signs of people’s memory starting to decline in younger years are not necessarily associated with Alzheimer’s,” he says, but certain behaviors may be risk factors. Small, says that if younger people are experiencing memory problems, they should speak with their doctor about them to find out if something more serious is going on. “The sooner they get help, the better the outcome.”
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