When it comes to memory loss, myths abound. This is due in large part to the lack of research and knowledge that abounded a few decades ago. Memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s have been misunderstood conditions which has only served to create fear, apprehension and at times, incorrect treatment and management. Fortunately, new research has shed much light on the phenomenon giving us greater understanding on causes, impact and management.

Here are the five top misconceptions about memory loss and the actual truth behind the myth.

1. Memory loss is always a sign of dementia

Forgetfulness and memory lapses are common complaints amongst older adults. This is due to the hippocampus region of the brain deteriorating with age. Memory loss and memory lapses are two different things. Memory lapses, for example occasionally forgetting where you left things, forgetting the names of acquaintances or occasionally forgetting an appointment are not considered to be signs of dementia.

2. Aluminum, aspartame and the flu vaccination can increase the risk of memory loss

These theories have been thoroughly disproved both here in Australia and overseas. In fact, being vaccinated against influenza may actually help protect you from developing dementia.

3. Memory loss/dementia is an inherited condition

In the majority of cases this is untrue. Some (rare) causes of dementia are very clearly “inherited”, for example Huntington’s disease but generally speaking, the most common risk factor is age.

4. There is nothing you can do to prevent memory loss from occurring

There is plenty you can do to keep your neurons firing! Think about exercising your brain in the same way you exercise your body. Play cards, join a book club, watch a football game with friends and discuss the score, or play a brain-training app. Any mentally challenging activity will keep your mind sharp.

5. Lifestyle factors don’t have any bearing on memory loss

 Plenty of recent studies have found that diet and exercise have a significant role to play in preventing memory loss and even helping manage dementia. Moderate, regular exercise pared with a Mediterranean style diet high in fish, olive oil, vegetables and legumes has been shown to be very effective in combatting age related memory loss and helping slow the progression of dementia.

Tell us, what lifestyle modifications have you found the most helpful for keeping your brain healthy?

This article was written in partnership with Over60.