Things Not to Believe About Brain Health

Myths About Your Brain, Memory, and Dementia

Illustration of a brain
PASIEKA/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

You can't believe everything you hear. With that in mind, here are the top 5 myths about your brain.

It Is What It Is

Some people believe that our memory and brain functioning doesn't change. This is not necessarily true. Through physical exercise, mental activity, and diet, scientists have found that the physical brain can actually change. For example, research has shown that the size of areas important to memory such as the hippocampus can increase with physical activity.

In addition to brain size, your memory and overall cognitive functioning can also improve through physical and mental exercise such as crossword puzzles, social interaction, and almost any kind of physical activity including dancing.

Once Your Memory Starts to Decline, It's Too Late

It's important to know that some conditions responsible for memory loss may be reversible. If these conditions are identified and treated promptly, memory functioning and other cognitive declines may be partially or even fully restored.

It's true that Alzheimer's disease can't be cured at this time. But, there are medications that can sometimes slow the progression, as well as many non-drug approaches that can even improve functioning for a limited amount of time. Research has shown that physical exercise, mental activity, and diet can all potentially improve brain functioning for a time, even after dementia has been diagnosed.

Additionally, some people are diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, a condition that involves a decline in thinking and/or memory. While MCI often progresses to Alzheimer's disease, others with MCI actually see their condition improve and resolve over time.

It's Normal for Older People to Lose Their Memory

Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia are not normal, regardless of someone's age. In general, a person's ability to find the right word and their speed of processing information ​decrease in late life. But the memory loss of dementia is significant enough to impair daily functioning and is typically the result of a major disease such as Alzheimer's, a stroke or a specific type of disease such as Huntington's or frontotemporal dementia.

Alzheimer's Disease Only Happens in Older People

Although Alzheimer's is most common in older adults, it can also develop much earlier in life. Approximately 200,000 people under the age of 65 have early onset Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. Alzheimer's disease always brings many challenges with it, but when it develops in younger people, it can cause additional difficulties with job functioning and family life.

If You Take Good Care of Yourself, You Will Not Develop Dementia

If you take good care of yourself, your risk for dementia declines (and often significantly), but there is no proven way to completely guarantee prevention of dementia.

There are, however, many scientifically-backed ways to decrease the chances that dementia will develop. These are worth pursuing, as they often can benefit both your brain and your overall physical health as well. Many causes of dementia can be tied to risks that you can at least partially control, such as blood pressure, heart health, diet and physical activity level.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • Pennsylvania Behavioral Health and Aging Coalition.Brain Health: Cognitive Changes in Older Adults.