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By age 60, more than half of adults have concerns about their memory. However, minor memory lapses that occur with age are not usually signs of a serious neurological disorder, such as Alzheimer's disease, but rather the result of normal changes in the structure and function of the brain. This report describes age-related changes and other causes of memory impairment--and how to distinguish between them. It also explains how and why certain health conditions (such as cardiovascular disease) that become more common with age can impair memory. Side effects from some medications, such as sleep aids, antihistamines, and various pain relievers, may also contribute to memory woes. In such cases, controlling health problems and switching medications often can sustain or improve memory function. You'll also learn about cognitive reserve, which reflects the brain's capacity to withstand damage associated with disease or injury and how to increase it by staying physically and mentally active. The more you use your brain, the stronger it can become--and the longer it can stay strong.
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Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Kirk R. Daffner, M.D., Director, Center for Brain-Mind Medicine and Chief, Division of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, Brigham and Women s Hospital, Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
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