10 research-proven tips for better memory

Healthful habits help protect memory, but the aging brain may need an extra tweak or two to stay sharp.

If you're age 50 or over, chances are you've noticed some decline in your ability to remember things. Perhaps you can't recall why you raced to the pantry, or you forget the names of people you just met at a party.

While most people notice memory changes with age, only a small percentage — about 10% by age 65 — experience actual dementia, a serious and progressive decline in memory and cognitive abilities. Such significant loss of mental functioning is due not to aging but to organic disorders, injury, or neurological illness. Good general health habits help protect cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia. Studies have shown that women are less likely to experience cognitive decline or dementia if they stay physically active, get enough sleep, don't smoke, reduce their stress levels, maintain a rich social network, limit alcohol to one drink or less a day, and eat a balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats. And physical problems or medication side effects are less likely to disturb memory in women who seek and follow medical advice (see "Remember your health," below).

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »