When it comes to your brain, here is a fact that’s harsher than a Buffalo winter: The research shows that, eventually, everyone in America will either get Alzheimer’s or care for someone who has it.

In some way or another, we’re all going to be affected by serious change-your-life memory problems. Fortunately, memory disorders aren’t as uncontrollable as they seem. The way to attack potential brain problems is by using your brain to understand them.

For starters, here are some things you should know about your noggin:

Mental Decline

We experience a mental decline a lot earlier than we realize. Memory loss starts at 16, and is relatively common by age 40. One way you can see this is through research done on video game players. People start losing their hand-eye coordination, and ability to perform exceptionally well on video games after the age of 25.

The fascinating part of this research isn’t that you’ll rarely beat your kid in Mario Kart. It’s that even if your brain knows what to do when presented with an animated hairpin turn at 135 mph, your brain can’t fire those messages fast enough to your trigger-happy thumbs. There’s a natural slowing of the connection—the power line—between your brain and body.

Men and women not only differ when it comes to movie tastes and erogenous zones, but also when it comes to mental decline. Men usually lose their ability to process info quickly. That split shows us a couple things. One, there’s a strong genetic component to memory loss. Two, there are specific actions you should be taking to combat genetic disposition. While there are some places where you’re naturally going to decline because of your sex, there are other areas where you’re going to have an advantage. That means your job isn’t only to try rebuilding the area that’s broken down, but to preserve the areas that excel.

Across the board, both genders lose competency in the areas in which they’re weak to begin with. Women usually lose spatial cognition, and men suffer verbal losses. Though it’s certainly not true for everyone, it can give you clues as to which areas of your brain to focus on as you age. Or, it may help you play to your strengths. (For example, those with poor memory recall can use organizational skills to compensate.)

Brain and Memory

You don’t have to have an elite brain to know your three-pound organ has more power than a rocket booster. It controls everything from your emotions to decision making. When we discuss memory loss, we’re focusing on three specific brain functions: sensory info (your ability to determine what info’s important), short-term memory loss (quick, what’s this article called?) and long-term memory loss (every piece of info you’ve known, read and stored during your life).

Whether you’ve seen it on the news, TV shows or with your own family, you know how dementia looks from the outside: People forget names, faces, where they live and info that seems—to the rest of the world—so easy to remember. The most frequently seen problem: getting lost on the walk home.

To really control your genetic destiny, you need to take a look at what memory looks like on the inside. For the record, age-related memory loss is classified in several ways. Conditions like Alzheimer’s, dementia and mild cognitive impairment are all technically different.