It seems that every month there is a study released suggesting that something in our lives -- be it our diet, sleep schedule or social habits -- could be harming our memory, both short term and long term. And it’s no wonder we’re concerned: Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Between 2000 and 2008, death rates for most major diseases declined in the U.S., whereas deaths from Alzheimer’s disease rose 66 percent during the same period.
Though Alzheimer’s disease is considered by many an “elderly” condition, it’s possible that some 200,000 Americans have younger-onset Alzheimer’s, which affects people younger than 65. So the focus on preserving our memory and cognitive function is warranted.
When thinking about memory, Aaron Nelson, Ph.D., assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and author of "The Harvard Medical School Guide to Achieving Optimal Memory," says to look at it this way: when thinking about brain health, everything you know about heart health applies. The things that are bad for your heart -- high cholesterol and smoking, for example -- are also bad for your brain.
The following takes a look at some of the research surrounding memory loss and cognition, considering both short-term and long-term effects. Bear in mind that much of the research is still inconclusive; however, it helps to know what’s being considered in the field. Are aspects of our daily lives potentially affecting our memory?