Although we've all heard people joke about having a "senior moment" when they can't remember something simple, the truth is that getting older is in no way synonymous with losing our memories. While certain diseases may cause memory impairment and be out of our control, there's plenty we can do to keep our brains sharp and stave off forgetfulness—even if we're genetically programmed to be at higher risk for conditions such as Alzheimer's. Follow these simple tips:

  • Take a walk a day. While it might seem that walking exercises your body and not your brain, a recent study shows that walkers and others who engage in moderate exercise have a lower incidence of vascular dementia, a form of memory loss linked to poor brain blood flow. According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation at Rockefeller University, the participants who walked the most had a 27 percent reduction in Alzheimer's risk compared to those who walked the least.
  • Keep learning. Challenge your brain, and it will reward you. Dr. Mehmet Oz, an author and cardiothoracic surgeon at Columbia University, insists we have to get out of our comfort zones at times and push ourselves to take on something unfamiliar. Learn a new game, try out a difficult puzzle, or take up a hobby or vocation. Basically, learning reinforces the neural connections that help us preserve our memories.
  • Teach someone. How well you're able to explain something to someone else is an indicator of how well you've learned it, says Oz. Teaching helps us retain information longer. And you don't have to go back and get a degree in education—teaching a hobby course at a community college or simply imparting your knowledge to children or grandchildren is enough to stimulate your intellect.
  • Eat brain food. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to slow cognitive decline. Aim for at least two servings of fatty fish each week, such as salmon or mahi-mahi. And load up on vegetables. Studies show that people who eat just two servings of veggies each day experience a 35 percent reduction in loss of thinking skills over six years.
  • Learn to appreciate a good joke. It sounds funny, but having a sense of humor actually keeps your brain functioning well. That's because understanding a joke or pun involves being able to distinguish between the expected and unexpected. It's a kind of mental hopscotch that gives your brain a little workout. On a similar note, engaging is simple small talk has been shown in studies to be as brain-boosting as doing a crossword puzzle. Experts believe it's the social aspect of conversation that helps to stimulate the brain.