What Is Memory Loss & How to Keep Your Mind Sharp

To a degree, there is normal memory loss with age. Find out what defines age-related memory loss, when help is justified, and how to keep the brain sharp.

With each passing year, the body starts to undergo changes that may eventually compromise brain function. 

And, to a degree, there is normal memory loss with age. Such changes in cognitive function may be trouble remembering details and self worry about memory. 

Find out in greater detail characteristics that help define age-related memory loss and when help is justified. 

What Is Age-Related Memory Loss?

The beginning of age-related memory loss is generally mild. It is also known as age-associated memory impairment. 

In its mild form, people start to perceive an increase in memory loss. They also demonstrate lower scores in objective memory tests compared to younger adults. About 40 percent of people have a mild form of memory impairment.

Compared to age-associated memory impairment, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a more serious form of memory loss. It affects about 15 percent of the senior population, in which nearly 15 percent of them progress to Alzheimer’s disease.

It is important to recognize risk factors and symptoms that help identify when help may be needed.

Risk factors of MCI include:

  • Genetics and family history
  • Head trauma such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Lifestyle choices, including a poor diet, physical activity, and smoking

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 10 typical age-related memory changes include:

  1. Forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.
  2. Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook and minor challenges in other planning or problem-solving tasks.
  3. Occasionally needing help to modify television or microwave settings and other common tasks.
  4. Getting confused about the day or time but figuring it out later.
  5. Difficulty understanding visual images, mostly related to cataracts.
  6. Having difficulty finding the right word in speaking or writing.
  7. Misplacing things but retracing steps to find them.
  8. Making poor decisions every once and awhile.
  9. Sometimes feeling weary of work, family, and social obligations.
  10. Developing specific ways in which tasks are done and becoming irritable if a routine is disrupted.

Assessing age-related memory loss may be difficult. Regular assessments are critical to recognize a baseline, identify potential underlying causes, and advise whether or not help may be needed. 

Assessments should be completed annually for preventative measures and be more frequent as needed. Physicians may screen and assess the following:

  • Potential risk factors
  • Memory loss history regarding onset and symptoms
  • Potential interactions and side effects of underlying medical conditions or medications
  • Depression or other psychological disorders
  • Objective scores from standard memory tests

If you start to recognize any of the symptoms within yourself, family member, or loved one, schedule a doctor’s appointment. They can then guide you into the appropriate individualized treatment and best ensure safety.

How to Keep the Brain Sharp 

Keep your mind sharp with these 10 tips, including adopting an overall healthy lifestyle. 

1. Keep Busy

Keeping busy can keep your brain young. In fact, greater busyness has been linked to improved processing speed, working memory, reasoning, and crystallized knowledge. 

There is also a strong link between a busy daily lifestyle and an improved episodic memory, or the ability to remember specific events in the past.

Ultimately, fill your time with meaningful activities and events.

2. But Allow Rest

When sound asleep, nerve cells actively communicate with one another and harmful toxins linked to Alzheimer’s disease are cleared. Without this restoration, the risk of cognitive decline increases, along with an overall likelihood of early dementia onset.

Young adults and seniors are encouraged to sleep seven to nine hours nightly, though good sleep gets tougher with age. If struggling to sleep, use these ideas to help cure insomnia to help promote a better night’s rest.

3. Consume a Healthy Diet

A well-balanced diet can ultimately reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. This, in turn, helps protect against stroke, which is a large risk factor of dementia.

Incorporate a well-balanced variety of nutrient-dense foods, including:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and veggies
  • Beans and other legumes
  • Chicken, fish, and other lean proteins
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils

4. Exercise the Body

In addition to keeping the body agile and mobile for years to come, exercise keeps the brain sharp! Exercise may also stave against dementia, particularly by improving memory and thinking.

Common exercise guidelines include:

  • Before starting any sort of exercise regimen, consult with a primary care provider to ensure safety.
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
  • Incorporate various forms of movement, including aerobic, resistance and strength, and balance exercises.
  • Don’t forget to stretch! Doing so helps stave against injury. A warm-up and cool-down also help protect against muscle pulls and strains.

All-in-all, any movement is better than going without. So, aim to incorporate more activity throughout the day.

5. Protect Yourself

Although accidents happen and living in a bubble is not realistic to combat against them, try to proactively protect yourself. 

Brain injury is a large risk factor for dementia development. So, wear that helmet, seatbelt, life vest, or any type of recommended harness for self-protection.

6. Stop Substance Abuse

Abusing alcohol, cigarettes, or any other type of harmful substance causes more than immediate consequences to the brain. 

Excessive alcohol is associated with an increased risk of memory problems while smoking can reduce valuable oxygen supply to the brain. 

7. Continue Learning

Learning and challenging the brain helps activate and stimulate processes proven to augment cognitive and mental functioning and deter against impairments.

Luckily, there are numerable opportunities to continue learning throughout the entire lifespan, including by:

  • Enrolling in courses of interest.
  • Starting a garden.
  • Playing games with yourself or others, including puzzles and word searches.
  • Learning a new skill, including playing an instrument or learning a new instrument.
  • Volunteering for projects within the community.

8. Build and Maintain Social Networks

Whether it be based on strong personal relationships, cultural activities, or emotional support, research shows social engagement lessens the risk of dementia. 

Stay social in the workplace, out in the community, or by traveling.

9. Use Tools to Your Advantage

One of the best tactics regarding how to regain memory is simply by utilizing tools to optimize brain function.

For instance, take advantage of calendars, planners, maps, address books, etc. Also designate specific areas to keep keys, purses, and other day-to-day things.

Removing clutter in the home or at the office can also minimize distractions. This allows you to maximize focus on new information and knowledge.

10. Consider Medical Treatment

As advances in medication and care evolve and research continues to progress, treatments toward health conditions start initiating and leading to greater value. 

In the case of dementia, early dedication of genetic mutation may allow physicians to prescribe or implement a medication regimen in hopes to prevent, reduce, or delay associated symptoms.


Mild cognitive impairment. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/topics/mild-cognitive-impairment

Normal aging vs dementia. Alzheimer Society of Canada. https://alzheimer.ca/en/Home/About-dementia/What-is-dementia/Normal-aging-vs-dementia