Your brain stops growing and starts aging: In your late 20s
. Your brain is still developing even after society calls you an adult. But it doesn’t last long. Once you hit your late 20s, you start a very slow “cognitive decline.”
Your brain shrinks as you get older.: True
. After you turn 40, your brain gets 5% smaller with each passing decade. It shrinks even faster once you hit 70. Scientists aren’t sure why, but brain cells die off with age.
You’re less likely to have memory problems if you’re: A woman
. In the memory battle of the sexes, women win. Men score lower on memory tests than women at every age, and especially after age 40.
You’re more likely to stay sharp longer if you: Exercise regularly
. Studies show that people with healthier hearts score higher on mental tests. So habits that help your heart also help your brain. Good sleep, a healthy, balanced diet, and exercise are all brain boosters, even as your mind matures.
You’re most likely to forget this first as you get older: Your first day of school
. The kind of memory that helps you remember facts, like knowing the capital of a country, is called semantic memory. Procedural memory is your muscle memory — the kind that’s responsible for the phrase “It’s like riding a bike.” Events that happen to you — episodic memories — are the ones that tend to go first.
Which activity helps your brain stay young?: Both spending time with friends and learning new language.
Just like good physical health is a boon for your brain, so is good mental and emotional health. Challenging your brain with new skills keeps it firing on all cylinders for longer. And a group of good friends is not only good company, it can help you live longer — and remember more, too.
As your brain gets older, it gets: Less blood. Blood flow to your brain naturally slows down as you age, and it affects your frontal cortex first. (That’s where you store words.) Regular exercise can get your heart pumping, and bonus blood can keep your mind humming.
Thirty minutes after hearing the same story, a 70-year-old typically remembers this percent of what an 18-year-old remembers.: 75%
. On the other hand, your language skills stay with you throughout your life. In fact, your vocabulary keeps getting bigger into middle age.
Which vitamin helps lower your chances of dementia?: B
. When it comes to memory matters, B all you can B. Three B vitamins — folic acid, B6, and B12 — all help lower levels of certain proteins that bring on dementia. You can get all three naturally from bread, fortified cereal, and leafy greens.
You’re at higher risk of memory problems if you: Have had a head injury
. Sometimes a blow to your head causes memory loss right away. But even if you get through it with your memories intact, you may be more likely to get Alzheimer’s later on.
Starting in your late 20s, your mental and emotional health tends to: Get better
. A large study found that while your memory may slip as you get older, your overall mental health seems to improve.