Age-related Memory Loss & Memory Problems

Between the ages of 30 and 70, the brain produces 15 to 20 percent fewer neurotransmitters, chemicals that send messages between neurons. This combination brings on normal memory lapses such as the "misplaced handbag."

Memory can be further degraded by high blood pressure, chronic stress, heart attack, and stroke. The latter two can cause significant—and sometimes permanent—cognitive problems.

For most of us, age-associated loss of recall is most noticeable in the area of working memory. The most often-cited lapse? The "where did I put the car keys?" phenomenon. Happily, "Some types of memory, especially procedural memory, are often unaffected by aging," notes Laura L. Carstensen, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, CA. So once you find those keys, your ability to drive remains intact.

To manage working memory hitches, always keep important items in the same place—such as keys on a key rack. Perhaps the glitch adults complain about most is forgetting a word or name you know well. Deborah M. Burke, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Pomona College, in Claremont, CA, studies these tip-of-the-tongue slips. "Our research shows that, when you finally remember the word, if you repeat it out loud you're less likely to have trouble remembering it in the future." Burke also suggests prepping for memory-stressing occasions like business trips by reviewing the names of people you're likely to see.

From our sister publication, REMEDY's Healthy Living, Spring 2011

Publication Review By: Deborah M. Burke, Ph.D., Laura L. Carstensen, Ph.D., Nancy Johnson, Ph.D.

Published: 08 Feb 2011

Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015