We spend our entire lives making memories and fostering connections between ourselves and the people and places around us.

It can be terrifying to know that memory loss associated with dementia can rob us of these memories and connections. We may feel especially helpless knowing our age and genetics are big risk factors — risk factors we can do nothing about.

But while these may be some immutable truths about memory loss, there are also many myths about memory loss circulating. Educating ourselves is the first step toward making a positive change.

Being able to separate the truths from the myths about memory loss can make us feel less helpless, be more empowered, and be in a better position to keep our brains and bodies in good health. Education can also help us understand more about what may be normal memory loss, and what may indicate a deeper issue.

Memory loss myth #1:

You can’t do anything to prevent memory loss. That’s definitely not true! While we mentioned your age and your genetics are two significant risk factors you can’t control, there are other factors you certainly can control. Researchers say you can help keep your brain healthy by also keeping your body healthy.

In that respect, it’s a 2-for-1 deal: Changing your diet to include more leafy green vegetables, nuts, berries and whole grains, while cutting down on red and processed meats, butter and cheese, sweets, and fried and fast foods, benefits both your brain and your body. Doing 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week also has dual benefits.

And not smoking, or quitting if you do smoke, can reduce your risk of developing dementia. Some reasons behind this include the fact that the two most common forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, have both been linked to problems with the vascular system.

Memory loss myth #2:

All memory loss is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. The fact is, it’s completely normal to have some memory loss as we age. And forgetfulness can be just another sign of aging. The key is to discern what’s normal memory loss — forgetting where you put our car keys, forgetting the name of a friend — and what could be a warning sign of something more serious.

Memory loss myth #3:

There’s no benefit to learning something new as we age. That’s a ridiculous myth on so many levels. First of all, learning a new skill is key to brain health; the brain is considered a use-it-or-lose-it type of organ. Synaptic connections that aren’t firing will weaken. And second of all, learning a new skill, language, or hobby can light up parts of your brain, forming new connections and neurons and make existing neural pathways stronger.

Memory loss myth #4:

Older adults can kick back and do nothing in retirement. Don’t get too comfy in that hammock. A British research study showed that being bored (which occurs when you don’t learn new things very often — see myth #3) can be dangerous to your health. People in the study who reported being bored over a long period of time had heart disease rates more than twice as high as those who didn’t report boredom.

Not having new experiences and learning new things will slow your brain down and make it less responsive. Keeping your brain stimulated is good for your health and has been shown to slow the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as just preventing general slowing of your mental faculties.

Memory loss myth #5:

There are known cures for Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, this is still a myth. However, there are treatments that may change disease progression, and drug and non-drug options that may help treat symptoms. It’s important to understand the available options, because some treatments may improve your overall quality of life.

Memory loss myth #6:

Early detection makes no difference. Actually, it’s very important to get diagnosed early. The sooner the accurate diagnosis, the sooner you can work with a qualified care team to develop a treatment strategy. There may be clinical trials to participate in. Early interventions may also change the course of the type of dementia, or slow its progression.

Memory loss myth #7:

All memory care communities take the same approach to caring for residents with memory loss. You might believe that — until you visit an Artis Senior Living community that offers memory care.