At some point in time, we’ve all forgotten someone’s name, misplaced our car keys or blanked on someone’s number. While you’re young, you don’t tend to pay heed to such memory lapses but as you grow older, this is something you may start worrying about. You might just begin to talk about your feelings over a movie that you’ve recently watched and soon realize that you can’t remember its name. You’re giving the directions of your home to someone and you suddenly forget the name of a very familiar street. Or you may even find yourself in the middle of your living room wondering what exactly you came in for. Yes, these are simple examples of memory lapses which are more frustrating than they sound. However, age-related memory issues are not always equivalent to dementia.
As you age, there are physiological changes which lead to glitches in the functioning of your brain that most people take for granted. With age, you take longer to recall small details and learn new things. You fail to be as swift as you used to be during your youth. While it is a fact that there are few brain alterations which are inevitable with aging, there are some major issues that can’t be counted among them. This is why it is vital for you to understand the striking difference between forgetfulness (related to aging) and other graver symptoms that may prompt an upcoming cognitive disorder.
Memory loss related to aging
The human brain has the capability of producing new brain cells regardless of the person’s age. This is why considerable memory loss can’t be said to be an inevitable part of aging. Just as you have to use your muscle strength in order to retain it, you also have to use your brain in order to not lose it. Your habits, lifestyle and regular activities play a certain impact on your cognitive health. No matter what your age is, there are always ways and methods for you to enhance your cognitive skills, safeguard your grey matter and prevent memory loss.
Nevertheless, there are several types of mental activities which are never affected by normal course of aging. Such abilities are:
- The power to perform things that you’ve always been doing and keep doing it often
- The knowledge and wisdom that you’ve acquired through your life experiences
- The ability to form judgments, reason and argue and your common sense
Dementia vs. normal forgetfulness
For the majority, temporary lapses in memory are usually a normal part of aging and it isn’t any warning sign of the onset of dementia. Check out the few types of memory lapses which are totally normal among the seniors and can’t be taken as the initial signs of dementia:
- Forgetting at times where you left your car keys or glasses
- Not remembering the names of familiar people or calling your grandson by the name of your son or vice versa
- Forgetting a doctor’s appointment or entering a room and forgetting why you came in
- Not being able to retrieve details that you feel you have at the tip of your tongue
- Not being able to focus easily or remembering what you just watched or read
Loss of memory – Does it always keep you from functioning properly?
The pivotal difference between dementia and memory loss due to aging is that the latter is never disabling. Such normal memory lapses have a nominal impact on your regular activities and your capability of doing whatever you wished to do. On the contrary, dementia is marked by a constant, disabling decline in more than two intellectual abilities like language, memory, abstract thoughts and judgment.
As soon as memory loss becomes inescapable and serious, this starts disrupting and hampering your social activities, hobbies and it can gradually have an impact on your family ties. This is how the warning symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia start showing and this is when you may feel the need of home caring services where you’ll be provided assistance with your daily activities.
|Common changes to memory due to age||Symptoms that signify dementia|
|The person performs all tasks on his own in spite of suffering from occasional lapses in memory.||The person may not be able to perform simple daily tasks like washing up, dressing or paying bills. Forgetting how to perform tasks that they’ve been doing for ages.|
|The person might take time to think of a particular direction but he/she won’t get lost in known places.||The person gets totally disoriented and lost even in acquainted places and is not able to follow known directions.|
|The person can describe and recall his/her own case of forgetfulness.||The person won’t be able to describe any particular instance where his/her memory changed.|
|The person may face temporary difficulties in finding out the right word while speaking but that won’t bar him/her from conducting a conversation with people.||The person will often forget words, misuse words or garble. He/she will also repeat the same stories and phrases while conversing.|
|The person’s decision-making and judgmental abilities will be similar as always.||The person will feel troublesome while making choices; he/she may show extremely poor judgmental skills or behave in an inappropriate manner.|
When should you visit a doctor for treatement?
Are your memory lapses becoming frequent or significantly noticeable that it is becoming a concern for your family members and for you? Once you reach that point, you should immediately schedule an appointment with a doctor and go through an examination. If you still don’t display all the primary symptoms of dementia, you should still take a step to prevent something even more serious.
While there are dementia care services Central Coast, if you’re a resident there, before relying on them, make sure you first see a doctor to rule out all possibilities of usual memory loss that comes with aging. Once you meet a doctor, he/she can determine all your physical risk factors, determine your symptoms, phase out reversible memory loss and let you get primary care. When you diagnose Alzheimer’s disease early, it can reduce the decline in vascular dementia and also improve the quality of life. Here are few things you can expect from a doctor’s visit:
- The doctor will ask you how long you’ve been noticing such issues with your memory
- He/she will ask you about the kind of things that are tough for you to remember
- He/she will try to know whether you’re facing trouble while doing normal daily tasks
- He/she will ask you whether the trouble eventually occurred or suddenly
They can also get a list of all the medicines and drugs that you’re presently taking, your sleep and eating patterns, whether or not you have been stressed or depressed and other information on events that have been occurring in your life. In case the doctor feels that your memory has to be evaluated, they may refer you to a neuropsychologist.
Memory loss – The few reversible causes
As mentioned earlier, you have to understand that memory loss doesn’t always mean you suffer from dementia. There are multiple other reasons behind experiencing such cognitive issues like depression, stress, and deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. There are times when memory loss can be due to conditions that can be treated. Here are some reversible causes of memory loss:
- Depression: Imitates symptoms of memory loss thereby making it tough for you to focus on things, remember information and get things done. One of the most common problems among older adults is depression, particularly when you’re not too active or social or if you’ve gone through major life events like loss of a dear one, retirement or diagnosis of an illness.
- Thyroid issues: Your thyroid glands are responsible for controlling your metabolism and in case it is too fast, you’ll feel confused and when it’s too slow, you’ll feel depressed and sluggish. Thyroid issues can lead to memory problems like forgetfulness. Taking medicines can cure this problem.
- Deficiency of Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 safeguards the neurons and is important for the functioning of your brain. Lack of B12 can lead to permanent brain damage. The elderly generation usually has a slow absorption rate and hence it gets tough to get the required amount of B12 that your body and mind may need. By taking the right medicines, you can reverse memory issues.
- Dehydration: The seniors are more vulnerable to dehydration which can cause drowsiness, confusion, memory loss and even symptoms which are similar to those of dementia. You should have 6-8 glasses of water in a day as this is the best way to keep yourself hydrated. Be extra watchful if you take laxatives, diuretics or have high blood sugar levels or diarrhea.
- Consumption of alcohol: We all know that excessive intake of alcohol can have a toxic impact on your brain cells and can even lead to memory loss. If you’ve been taking alcohol for a very long period of time, this can also boost the risk of developing dementia. Due to the damaging impacts of excessive drinking, experts may limit you intake to just 1-2 drinks.
Brain boosters to compensate for memory loss
Memory blips keep occuring from time to time but that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to memory loss. By following the right lifestyle and by keeping your brain sharp, you can prevent memory loss from affecting your daily course of life. Check out some steps that you should take:
Engage in physical activity
A 30-minute walk is perhaps the best thing that you can ever do for your brain and body. It has been proved that physical exercise is the best way of improving your mental functioning and preserving memory while aging. Exercise can keep you from losing memory by preventing a few of the main triggering factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and high cholesterol.
Stay socially active
People who are not engaged socially with their friends and family members are always at an increased risk of suffering from memory problems rather than people who have strong social connections. Face-to-face interaction can reduce stress and it is an effective medicine for the brain. So, you can either join a book club or set time with friends or join the local senior center. Keep your phone away and focus on people if you want to benefit your brain.
Opt for a Mediterranean diet
Whether it is for your brain or for your physical health, a healthy diet is always important. Would you want to follow a diet style that would preserve your memory? If yes, go for the Mediterranean diet. If you think this means including lots of pizza and pasta, you’re wrong. You have to include vegetables and fruits into your meals, fish over meat and use olive oil while cooking. A study found out that people who closely followed this form of diet were 20% less susceptible to memory issues.
Keep your brain engaged
Just as physical exercise, it is also necessary to perform mental exercise in order to keep your brain engaged. How about joining in with your friends over a game of football or playing cards or using a brain training app? Anything that challenges your brain will keep your mind sharp and secured.
Cortisol is the stress hormone which keeps damaging the human brain over time and this can later on cause memory issues. Even before you fall prey to memory problems, anxiety and stress can even lead to memory issues. If you’re anxious or stressed, you’re more likely to suffer from lapses of memory and have difficulty in concentrating and learning new things. This is why you should try to follow few stress management techniques to minimize the impacts.
Aging brings you closer to several health issues, dementia and memory loss being one among them.