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Anyone over 50 lives in dread of the big A

This is a quote from Dr Richard Restak in an article written for the Guardian by Gaby Hinsliff.

Now 80 Restak is still active in the field and has written another book for the general public: ‘The Complete Guide to Memory: The science of strengthening your mind. Stop drinking, keep reading, look after your hearing: a neurologist’s tips for fighting memory loss and Alzheimer’s | Memory | The Guardian

He speaks a lot of sense – most of it already well known by anyone with a passing interest in keeping themselves lively as they grow older. But there is nothing wrong in saying it again – perhaps at the fourth iteration the penny will click:

‘This relates to me and I best do something about it. He attempts to characterise the memory lapses - ‘sins of memory loss’ as he puts it- which are not too serious and are unlikely to give way the dementia, and compares them with more sinister errors such as putting your car key or newspaper in the fridge. – Mind on a frantic morning it is strange where some familiar items choose to land.

This is probably reassuring. He advocates games and puzzles to keep the brain sharp – The worry is that we might become memory-hypochondriacs – so devoted to trying to keep our brain cells working by such focussed exercise that we have no life at all.

His alternatives – of keeping on reading, conversing, being involved with family, friends and the wider community and entertainment feel more natural and allow for joy.

He advises everyone over 70 to give up drinking alcohol. This in not quite in keeping with a very recent editorial in the BMJ which would prohibit alcohol for people under 40 but encourage it in moderation for the older people: Harms of alcohol in different age groups | The BMJ

His advice on being attentive to general health and adopting life-style to nutrition and activities which are known to be associated with longevity is sound. What is good for the body is good for the brain. Recent emphasis on the importance of sight and hearing to the maintenance of memory is well conveyed.

Perhaps the most interesting part of his discussion relates to the use and impact of beta-blocking medications. They are known to control heart rate and blood pressure and reduce anxiety and arousal. Restak says that they reduce the bad feelings aroused when memories of traumatic experiences are triggered – and I think is suggesting that they may reduce the laying down of memories with affective associations. Propranolol’s effects on the consolidation and reconsolidation of long-term emotional memory in healthy participants: a meta-analysis - PMC (

I did not know that: We keep learning.

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