Senior Health

Here you will find informative articles on the topic of senior nutrition. Topics covered range from senior nutrition and weight loss to the relationship between BMI and quality of life for the elderly.

Forgetful Lately? The Effects of Aging on Memory

Some of the most important things to do to care for your brain and help reduce memory loss are relatively easy to incorporate into your day.


Many octogenarians have memories as sharp as a tack. Some 30-yr-olds have trouble recalling names. And regardless of how old we are - we've probably all misplaced our keys at some point, or forgotten something important. So the effects of aging on memory can differ greatly among different people.

Aging and memory loss is a result of a worn-out neuron, or a brain cell that hasn't performed self-cleanup, has been exposed to oxygen radical species which can damage parts of the cell, or a brain cell that does not have proper stimulation from hormones. These factors play a role in both aging and memory loss in our brain cells.

Some of the most important things to do to care for your brain and help reduce memory loss are relatively easy to incorporate into your day. These include a little exercise, a little sleep, a little game time, and maybe a cup of coffee or two to help those of us who have become increasingly forgetful as we age.

Ways to Help Stave off the Effects of Aging on Memory


The expression "use it or lose it" certainly holds true within our brains. If we are not stimulated into solving problems or having conversations, then our memory and cognitive ability can easily begin to decline. Solving memory puzzles, doing the daily crossword, and even playing video games can stimulate your brain and increase memory. Having social interactions and conversations is vital to help us remember events, places, and experiences.


Not only does exercise increase blood flow and circulation to the brain, there is a specific molecule that is release following exercise that makes your brain cells more 'neuroplastic' or flexible. Flexible brain cells are more capable brain cells, and that means better memory. The molecule is called brain-derived neurotrophic factor -- or BDNF, for short. BDNF is released following exercise, such as resistance training (such as lifting weights, pushups, sit-ups) in older adults. Lower circulating levels of BDNF have been linked to neuronal loss in older persons. Exercising can help reverse and reduce that neuronal loss.


In laboratory studies conducted on mice, caffeine was able to reduce the harmful chemicals that lead to reduced brain function. In addition, caffeine decreased oxidative stress in brain tissue, and reduced inflammation of nerve cells and decreased brain cell death. It works because caffeine is a SIRT-1 activator, which helps to stimulate cleanup of old proteins and 'get the garbage' out of cells, so to speak. Make sure you speak to your physician before adding in caffeine to your day if you do not already consume caffeine, especially if you have high blood pressure, sleep issues, or kidney disease.


This sleep-hormone is naturally synthesized by the body during a normal sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is an all-important hormone which serves as an antioxidant within cells and can help reduce age-related memory loss as well as neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia. In rats, treatment with melatonin reduced memory impairment and improved memory in aging rats. You need plenty of vitamin B6 in order to produce melatonin in the pineal gland of the brain, and exposure to light before sleeping can reduce the amount of melatonin that your brain produces. Melatonin supplements are can be helpful to those who struggle with falling asleep. A dose of 3-5mg seems to be all that is required to achieve biological levels of melatonin in most individuals, and has been used to help reduce the progression of Alzheimer's disease in adults.

Forti LN, Van Roie E, Njemini R, Coudyzer W, Beyer I, Delecluse C, Bautmans I. Dose-and Gender-Specific Effects of Resistance Training on Circulating Levels of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Exp Gerontol. 2015 Aug 18. pii: S0531-5565(15)30027-9. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2015.08.004. [Epub ahead of print]

Ullah F, Ali T, Ullah N, Kim MO. Caffeine prevents d-galactose-induced cognitive deficits, oxidative stress, neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in the adult rat brain. Neurochem Int. 2015 Jul 21. pii: S0197-0186(15)30004-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2015.07.001. [Epub ahead of print]

Ali T, Badshah H, Kim TH, Kim MO. Melatonin attenuates D-galactose-induced memory impairment, neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration via RAGE/NF-K B/JNK signaling pathway in aging mouse model. J Pineal Res. 2015 Jan;58(1):71-85. doi: 10.1111/jpi.12194. Epub 2014 Dec 9.

Claustrat B, Leston J. Melatonin: Physiological effects in humans. Neurochirurgie. 2015 Apr-Jun;61(2-3):77-84. doi: 10.1016/j.neuchi.2015.03.002. Epub 2015 Apr 20.

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on December 11, 2015. Updated on May 18, 2016.


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