Most people are aware of an increasing memory problem as they get older, but it doesn’t mean that everybody is. And it doesn’t mean that everybody gets the same degree of memory loss or at the same rate.
Ageing doesn’t make you lose your memory, but it does seem to have an effect on your visual and spatial memory skills. However, it has very little effect on your ability to remember names, stories, words and numbers i.e. your verbal memories.
It’s not true that you know less as you get older. In fact you probably know more. I can’t be alone in noticing parents and parents-in-law wiping the floor with us in general knowledge quizzes. I’ve often asked myself, ‘how on earth do they know that stuff?’
I’m pleased to say that your long-term memory remains intact, and your understanding becomes broader and wiser than ever. However, accessing it does slow down a bit. Your processing takes a bit longer.
You probably grew up, like I did, believing that when you’re born you have all your brain cells you’re ever going to have, and from then on you lose some everyday.
I remember being taught that you can expect to lose 10,000 brain cells every day unless you drink alcohol!
And if you drink alcohol you can expect to lose many more!
You thought I had some good news view on that front didn’t you?
Sorry about that!
Fortunately, while we still know relatively little about the brain, we do know that that old information isn’t true. It’s not as bad as that.
Each brain cell has dendrites, the long thin branches whose job it is to pick up information from other brain cells, and they continue to grow if you give them the need to. Because after all, what happens in your brain will be determined by how you use it.
The bad news is that as you age, your brain shrinks in size and tends to lose some of its spark. This is probably because the levels of neurotransmitters, the chemicals produced in the brain which allow brain cells to talk to each other, begin to decline, along with levels of hormones too. Also arteries and capillaries become less flexible and maybe even clogged, allowing even less blood flow. Therefore oxygen and nutrients, are less able to reach where they are needed in the brain.
And stress? Stress just makes the whole thing much, much worse.
So if you want to take action against the ravages of time, you could do well to look at how you can increase your blood flow (hint: exercise!) and decrease your level of stress.
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