First author Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, said UCLA researchers and the Gallup organization collaborated on a nationwide poll of more than 18,500 U.S. adults ages 18-99.
Respondents were surveyed about both memory and health behaviors, including whether they smoked, how much they exercised and how healthy their diet was.
Adults ages 60-99 were more likely to report engaging in healthy behaviors than those middle-age -- 40–59 -- and adults ages 18-39.
"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," Small said in a statement.
Gallup pollsters conducted land-line and cellphone interviews of 18,552 U.S. adults from December 2011-January 2012.
Only 12 percent of older adults smoked, compared with 25 percent of young adults and 24 percent of middle-aged adults, and 80 percent of older adults reported eating healthy the day before being interviewed and 64 percent said they ate five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables during the previous week.
"We found that the more healthy lifestyle behaviors were practiced, the less likely one was to complain about memory issues," said senior author Fernando Torres-Gil, a professor at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs and associate director of the UCLA Longevity Center.
Older adults might participate in more healthy behaviors because they feel the consequences of unhealthy living or there simply could be fewer older adults with bad habits, since they may not live as long, the researchers said.
The findings were to be published in the June issue of International Psychogeriatrics.