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Today’s Lifestyle Choices May Affect Tomorrow’s Memory

  Today’s Lifestyle Choices May Affect Tomorrow’s Memory
  Illustration: Maja Moden

If you’re depressed, don’t get enough exercise or have high blood pressure, you may find yourself complaining more about memory problems, even if you’re a young adult, according to a new UCLA study. UCLA researchers and the Gallup organization polled more than 18,000 people between the ages of 18 and 99 about their memory and a variety of lifestyle and health factors previously shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. They found that many of these risk factors increased the likelihood of self-perceived memory complaints across all adult age groups.

The findings may help scientists better identify how early lifestyle and health choices affect memory later in life. The known risk factors the researchers focused on included depression, lower education levels, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking.

“In this study, for the first time, we determined these risk factors may also be indicative of early memory complaints, which are often precursors to more significant memory decline later in life,” says Gary Small, MD (FEL ’83), Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center. Depression, low levels of education, physical inactivity and high blood pressure increased the likelihood of memory complaints in younger adults (ages 18-39), middle-aged adults (40-59) and older adults (60-99), the researchers found.

Overall, 20 percent of those polled had memory complaints, including 14 percent of younger adults, 22 percent of middle-aged adults and 26 percent of older adults. For younger adults, stress may play more of a role, and the ubiquity of technology — including the Internet and wireless devices, which often can result in constant multitasking — may affect their attention span, making it harder to focus and remember.

“Modifiable Risk Factors for Alzheimer Disease and Subjective Memory Impairment across Age Groups,” PLOS ONE, June 4, 2014


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