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Normal Aging vs Alzheimer’s Memory Loss: 5 Tips from Harvard Health for Improving Memory

Posted by on Sunday, October 15th, 2017


memory loss in Alzheimer's disease


Saying that memory loss is normal when it comes to aging is somewhat like carrying around a loaded gun without the safety on.  Many people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are misdiagnosed due to this common misperception. 

Although, it’s true that the memory does falter as we age, to a certain extent, there is a major difference between normal aging memory loss, and that of a person in the beginning stages of AD.  Namely, normal aging memory loss involves forgetting memories that can later be retrieved.  In AD, the memories are lost permanently—with no chance of recall at a later point in time.  Normal aging of the brain affects memory by slowing down the processing speed.

According to a recent Harvard News report, “In terms of brain function, everyone has a decline over time in all areas, with the exception of vocabulary,” says Dr. Joel Salinas, a neurologist specializing in behavioral neurology and Neuropsychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

How Memory Works in the Brain

Several areas of the brain are involved in memory.  Initially the cerebral cortex takes in new information from our senses, next the amygdala “tags” the information as noteworthy to be stored, and finally, the hippocampus (an area initially affected by AD) stores the memories.  The frontal lobes of the brain are involved in the job of retrieving information in the form of memories. 

There are basically 3 memory processes that occur in the brain.  These 3 processes work to encode, record, and retrieve information in the form of memories.  So, initially the brain encodes or takes in new information, next, it stores it, and finally the brain accesses the stored information and retrieves the memories when called upon.

Improving Memory in the Normal Aging Brain

There are many factors that can adversely affect a person’s memory (in addition to memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease).  These include, sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and side effects of many types of medication.  If you, or a person you know has memory problems, it’s important to see a physician.  The factors that should be addressed include, screening for AD and other conditions such as, anxiety and depression, medication checks (to evaluate whether drug side effects are part of the problem) and a sleep pattern evaluation.      

Tips for Boosting Memory from Harvard Health

  1. Use repetition to repeat what you hear out loud, “With each repetition, your brain has another opportunity to encode the information,” explains Dr. Salinas. “The connections between brain cells are reinforced, much like blazing a trail in the woods. The more you walk the same trail, the easier it is to walk it the next time.”
  2. Write down information that is important to help jog the memory.
  3. Form associations with new information to something that is familiar—that you already know.  For example, when trying to remember a new person’s name, search your memory to recall other people you know well with the same name, and then try to form an association that stands out, such as: they both have dark hair, or they are both left handed.
  4. Put the information into a storyline if possible, “Our brain is good at sequences, and putting things into a story helps. The more ridiculous, the more memorable it is. For example, if your list is milk, eggs, and bread, the story could be that you are having milk with Elvis over an egg sandwich,” Dr. Salinas suggests.
  5. Separate large amounts of information into segments.  For example, when trying to memorize a long number or lines for a play or a speech, focus on memorizing one sentence or one number sequence at a time. “It’s hard to store a long number,” says Dr. Salinas, “but easier to store little bits through working memory.” If you’re trying to memorize a speech for a wedding toast, focus on getting only one sentence or idea down at a time, not the whole speech in one take,”Salinas adds.

Learn more about memory loss and Alzheimer’s Prevention by CLICKING HERE to view the new groundbreaking book, Alzheimer’s Treatment, Alzheimer’s Prevention Diet book, by Dr. Richard Isaacson, M.D., Harvard trained neurologist.  

For more easy to follow nutrition advice check out The Alzheimer’s Diet: A Step-by-Step Nutritional Approach to Memory Loss Prevention and Treatment, or visit to learn more about Neurologist, Dr. Richard Isaacson's 9 week diet plan and his cutting edge approach in the fight against AD in Alzheimer's Treatment | Alzheimer's Prevention: A Patient and Family Guide 2012 Edition. Also, sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates in AD treatment and prevention news.

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