How Does Aging Cause Memory Loss?
How does aging cause memory loss? There isn't a concrete thing that can be targeted as the cause of age-related memory problems, but there are several factors that have been found to aid in memory loss as people age.
It may help to understand that memories are not a single function that occur in a single location in the brain, but consist of a variety of processes that classify and store information to be remembered. Different parts of the brain serve different functions, so memories are believed to be stored throughout the brain or at least in many locations.
The hippocampus plays an important role in the formation of storing long-term memories. Unfortunately, this area of the brain is also vulnerable to deterioration, which occurs naturally as the body ages.
Neurons run throughout the brain and help in the storing and retrieving of memories, among other functions. As the body ages and life becomes less stimulating (e.g. retirement, empty nest), these neurons can begin to slow down or even die off. This loss of neurons has an effect on the neurotransmitters (chemicals) that the brain typically releases, as well as affecting the receptors that are responsible for reacting to the specific neurotransmitters.
Additionally, blood flow can slow down with age, which can greatly limit the nutrients or fuel that travels to the brain in younger, healthier people. Just as a body cannot perform optimally when malnourished, the brain cannot work optimally or efficiently when malnourished.
Many brain functions are left unaffected by age and some "symptoms" that might seem like memory loss are actually the brain naturally slowing down with age. Processing and storing new information becomes a bit more difficult, which is natural.
There are steps that you can take, however, to help stave off memory loss or problems related to age. Engaging in regular exercise will help keep the blood flowing while maintaining cardiovascular health and bringing oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Proper diet can help ensure the body has the nutrients it needs to feed and fuel the brain efficiently and a proper sleep cycle will help in memory storing and help maintaining good health. Additionally, trying to find ways to occupy the brai,n such as puzzles or brain training exercises, visualization exercises and so forth, can help keep neurons strong and active, discouraging them from deteriorating early.