July 24, 2024
memory loss
Are you worried about forgetfulness? Find out what is expected regarding memory loss, and aging, and how to identify more serious issues.
  • Memory loss and aging
  • Normal forgetfulness vs. dementia
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
  • When to consult a physician for memory loss
  • Specific causes can reverse memory loss.
  • Memory loss compensation
  • Exercises for the brain to improve memory

Memory loss and aging

All of us have misplaced keys or blanked out someone’s name. Or do we need their phone number? As you get older, these mistakes may become more critical. You may be talking about a recent movie when you suddenly realize you don’t know the title. When you’re giving directions, you forget a familiar street. You may find yourself in the middle of the kitchen, wondering why you entered. Memory lapses are frustrating but are not always a cause for alarm. Memory changes due to age are different from dementia. As you age, your brain’s functions can become less reliable. Learning and remembering information takes longer. You once were faster than you were. You may even mistake slowing down your mental processes for memory loss. In most cases, you can recall the information if given enough time. While it is true that some brain changes are inevitable as we age, major memory issues are not among them. It’s crucial to distinguish between age-related memory loss and symptoms indicating a cognitive problem.

Memory loss in old age and the brain

As the brain can produce new brain cells, memory loss is NOT a result of aging. As with muscle strength, you must use it to keep it. Your daily habits, lifestyle, and everyday activities can significantly impact your brain’s health. Several ways exist to improve your cognitive abilities, protect your gray matter, and prevent memory loss. In addition, many mental abilities, including:
  • You can continue doing the things you do well and often.
  • Your wisdom and experience will help you to make the most of your life.
  • You have natural common sense and can form rational arguments and judgments.

Memory loss in old age: Three causes

  1. The hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory formation and retrieval, often degenerates with age.
  2. As we age, hormones and proteins which protect and repair brain cells and stimulate neural growth decline.
  3. The brain blood flow of older people is often reduced, which can affect memory and cognitive abilities.

Normal forgetfulness vs. dementia

Most people’s occasional short-term memory lapses do not indicate Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. They are simply a part of aging. Memory lapses of the following types are common among older adults but are not considered signs of dementia.
  • You may need to remember where you put things you use daily, like glasses or keys.
  • You may need to remember the names of friends or associates or confuse one memory with another similar one. For example, calling your grandson by his son’s name.
  • Sometimes forgetting a necessary appointment or enter a room without remembering why you are there.
  • You may find yourself easily distracted, forgetting what you just read or the details from a conversation.
  • You are not able to recall information that is “on the tip of your tongue.”

How does memory loss affect you?

The main difference between dementia and age-related memory loss is that dementia can be disabling. Memory lapses do not affect your ability to perform daily tasks or to achieve what you desire. A decline in intellectual abilities, such as language, abstract thinking, memory, and judgment, characterizes dementia. Suppose you experience memory loss that is so severe and pervasive that it interferes with your hobbies, work, family, and social life. In that case, you might have Alzheimer’s disease or another condition that causes dementia. Memory changes with age Dementia symptoms include: Ability to carry out everyday activities and function independently, despite memory lapses. Help with simple tasks, such as paying bills, dressing appropriately, or washing up. You need to remember how to do something you’ve done a lot. Ability to describe and recall incidents of forgetfulness. Memory loss can cause problems when you cannot identify specific incidents or tell them. You may pause for a moment to remember the directions but do not get lost in familiar areas. You may get lost or confused, even in familiar surroundings; you cannot follow instructions. No problems with the conversation. Words often need to be corrected, warped, or forgotten. Repeat stories and phrases in the same conversation. The same level of judgment and decision-making abilities as before. Trouble making choices. Can be socially insensitive or show poor judgment.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Mild cognitive impairment is a stage between the expected cognitive changes that occur with age and the more severe symptoms of dementia. MCI is characterized by memory, language, and thinking problems that are more severe than the regular changes of aging. However, it can be challenging to distinguish MCI from everyday memory problems. It’s often a matter of degree. As you get older, it is normal to have trouble remembering names. It’s not common to forget the names of close friends and family members and to still have difficulty recalling them even after some time. You and your family members or friends will likely know that your mental or memory function is declining if you have mild cognitive dysfunction. You can still function independently in daily life, unlike those with dementia.   It’s not inevitable that people with MCI will eventually develop Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Others with MCI may plateau in a milder stage of decline, while others return to normal. It is hard to predict the course of MCI, but the more memory impairment you have, the higher your chances of developing dementia.

MCI symptoms

Symptoms include:
  • Losing or misplacing items is a common occurrence.
  • Forget conversations, events, or appointments.
  • Need help remembering the names of new acquaintances.
  • It isn’t easy to follow the conversation.

When to consult a physician for memory loss

When memory lapses are frequent or noticeable enough to cause concern for you or your family, it’s time to see a doctor. Make an appointment with your primary doctor as soon as possible to discuss the situation and get a complete physical exam. You may want to start taking steps now to avoid a minor issue becoming a bigger one, even if you don’t have all of the symptoms that indicate dementia. Your doctor will assess your risk factors, evaluate symptoms, eliminate reversible memory loss, and assist you in obtaining appropriate care. Early diagnosis may help treat reversible memory loss, slow the progression of vascular degeneration or improve the quality of life for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

What to expect during your next doctor’s appointment

The doctor will ask you many questions about your memory.
  • How long has your memory been a problem for you?
  • What types of things are difficult to recall?
  • Is the problem a gradual or sudden onset?
  • Do you need help with everyday tasks?
Doctors will also ask about your medications, what you eat and sleep if you have been stressed or depressed recently, and what else has happened. The doctor may also ask that you or your partner keep track of symptoms and then check in with them after a few weeks. Your doctor may refer you to a Neuropsychologist if your memory issue needs further evaluation.

Specific causes can reverse memory loss.

Memory loss does not automatically indicate dementia. You may also suffer from cognitive issues due to stress, depression, or vitamin deficiencies. Seeing a doctor for an official diagnosis when experiencing mental problems is essential. Read: What is causing your memory loss? ] Even what appears to be a significant memory loss may be caused by treatable and reversible conditions, such as: Depressive Disorder. A depressive disorder can cause you to lose your memory, making it challenging to stay organized, forget things, and accomplish tasks. Depression in older adults is common. This is especially true if you are less social or active than before or have recently undergone a significant life change (retirement, a serious diagnosis, loss of a family member, or moving out of the home). Vitamin B12 Deficiency. Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy brain function. A lack of B12 may even cause permanent brain damage. The nutritional absorption of older people is slower, making it harder for them to obtain the B12 their body and mind need. You may be more at risk if you drink or smoke. You can reverse memory problems if you treat a vitamin B12 shortage early. The treatment is a monthly injection. Thyroid disorders. Your thyroid gland regulates your metabolism. If it is too high, you might feel like you need clarification. If it’s low, you could feel depressed. Memory problems, such as forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating, can be caused by thyroid problems. Symptoms can be reversed with medication. Alcohol abuse. Too much alcohol is harmful to the brain and leads to memory loss. Alcohol abuse can also lead to dementia over time. Experts recommend limiting your drinking to 1-2 drinks per day due to the harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption. Dehydration. Elderly adults are more susceptible to dehydration. Dehydration is a severe condition that can lead to confusion, drowsiness, and memory loss. Stay hydrated by drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day. You should be extra vigilant if your health is affected by diabetes, high blood glucose, diarrhea, or diuretics. Medication side effects. Many prescribed or over-the-counter medications can cause cognitive problems and memory loss. It is more common among older adults, who can absorb and break down medications slower. Sleeping pills, antihistamines and blood pressure medications, arthritis, and muscle relaxants are all common medications that can affect brain and memory function.

Do you take three or more drugs at the same time?

Taking too many medications can cause cognitive problems, just as taking certain medications individually. Recent research has shown that the more medications one takes, the greater the risk of brain atrophy. Researchers discovered that people who take three or more drugs are most likely to experience gray matter loss. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about your medicines. Do not stop taking medications without consulting your doctor.

Memory loss compensation

The same practices, which contribute to healthy aging and physical vitality, also contribute to improved memory. You will also improve all other aspects of your life by taking early steps to prevent cognitive decline. [Read about Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention] Be social. People with strong social connections are less likely to suffer from memory issues than those who don’t have a social life. Face-to-face interaction can reduce stress and be a powerful medicine for your brain. So schedule a time to visit friends, join a local book club, or go to the senior center. If you want to get the most out of your brain, put away your phone and concentrate on the person you are with. Quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of strokes and vascular disorders. It also constricts arteries supplying oxygen to the brain. The brain benefits immediately from better circulation when you stop smoking. Manage stress Cortisol (the stress hormone) damages the brain and can cause memory problems over time. Stress or anxiety may cause memory problems in the present. You’re more likely than not to experience memory problems and concentration issues when you are stressed or anxious. Simple stress-management techniques are a great way to minimize the harmful effects. Sleep enough. Getting a good sleep will help you consolidate your memory as you age. This is the process by which you form and store new memories to be able to retrieve them later. Sleep deprivation can cause memory problems, concentration issues, and even decision-making. Depression can also be a memory killer. Be careful what you eat. Consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, and green tea. These foods are rich in antioxidants that can prevent brain cells from “rusting.” Omega-3-rich foods like salmon, trout, walnuts, and flaxseed are suitable for the brain and memory. Too many calories can lead to memory loss and cognitive impairment. Regular exercise can reduce dementia risk by as much as 50%. Exercise can slow down the progression of cognitive issues in people already experiencing them. Exercise helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease by enhancing the brain’s capacity to make and maintain new connections.

Memory loss can be fought by walking.

According to new research, walking between six and nine miles per week can help prevent memory loss and brain shrinkage. According to the American Academy of Neurology, older adults who walked six to nine miles a week had more gray matter in their brains than those who did not walk much.

Exercises for the brain to improve memory

Mental exercise can improve your brain’s performance and reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Find brain exercises you enjoy. The more enjoyable an activity is for you, the greater its impact on your brain. Make some activities more fun by appealing to your sensory senses. For example, you can play music while exercising, light a scented candle, or reward yourself when you finish. [Read How to Improve Memory] From light exercises to heavy weights, here are some brain-training ideas:
  • Try games you don’t know, such as Scrabble or chess, which require strategy. Try Sudoku, Sudoku number puzzles, or crossword puzzles.
  • You can read newspapers, magazines, and books that will challenge you.
  • Learn new things. This could be a game, a recipe, a driving route, a musical tool, or a foreign tongue. Take a class in a subject you’re interested in. The more you engage your brain in learning, the more you will enjoy it and reap the benefits.
  • Improve your performance in existing activities. Commit to improving your fluency if you speak a second language. If you are a golf enthusiast, try to reduce your handicap.
  • Consider a project requiring design and planning, such as a garden, a quilt, or a Koi pond.

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