To examine the impact of these lifestyle choices on memory throughout adult life, University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers and the Gallup organisation collaborated on a nationwide poll of more than 18,500 individuals between the ages of 18 and 99.
Respondents were surveyed about both their memory and their health behaviour, including whether they smoked, how much they exercised and how healthy their diet was, reports Science Daily.
As the researchers expected, healthy eating, not smoking and exercising regularly were related to better self-perceived memory abilities for most adult groups. Reports of memory problems also increased with age. However, there were a few surprises.
"These findings reinforce the importance of educating young and middle-aged individuals to take greater responsibility for their health -- including memory -- by practicing positive lifestyle behaviors earlier in life," said the study's first author Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center. He is also professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.
Published in the June issue of International Psychogeriatrics, the study may also provide a baseline for the future study of memory complaints in a wide range of adult age groups.