Tips to improve memory as you age

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When people reach their 50s, chemical and structural changes in the brain may begin to occur, and these changes can affect a person's ability to process memories.

Father Time may be a formidable foe, but people can take steps to give their memories a boost as they get older.

Embrace recognition instead of trusting recall. Dr. Joel Salinas, a neurologist who specializes in behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, noted that human beings are better at recognition than recall. That means people are more likely to remember something they read, such as a note or a list, than something they're simply told.

Recognize the value of repetition. The Harvard Medical School noted that people might be more inclined to remember what they hear if they repeat it out loud. Names and addresses might be more easily remembered after they're repeated out loud because repetition increases the likelihood that the brain will record the information and be capable of retrieving it later. When studying for exams, many students repeat important points to themselves time and again, and that same approach can be applied by adults who are trying to improve their memories.

Eat a healthy diet. A study published in 2015 in the journal Neurology found that people who eat healthy diets with lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish and little alcohol and red meat may be less likely to experience declines in their memory and thinking skills. Authored by Andrew Smyth of McMaster University in Ontario and the National University of Ireland in Galway, the study followed more than 27,000 people in 40 countries for an average of roughly five years. All participants were 55 and older and had diabetes or a history of heart disease, stroke or peripheral artery disease. Those who ate the healthiest diets were 24 percent less likely to experience cognitive decline than people with the least healthy diets.

Break things down. Breaking things down into small chunks also can help improve memory. If tasked with remembering something extensive, such as a speech, focus on a single sentence at a time, only moving on to the next sentence when you're confident you have successfully committed the preceding sentence to memory.

Periodic memory lapses are often nothing to worry about. But men and women concerned about maintaining their memories can employ various strategies to do just that.

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