What does age-related memory loss look like? How Can You Be Sure It Isn’t Anything Serious? A lot of us wonder about the exact nature of the memory problems that we have when we first begin to experience regular trouble remembering the right word or remembering where we left our cellphone. It isn’t so much that these memory problems bother us for what they do. They bother us for what we fear they signal – dementia.
What would you think if you just found it impossible to remember to pay your bills every single month even if you had to pay $20 in late fees each time? Would you be pretty sure that you were edging close to life in a nursing home drooling into a cup?
As it happens, these lapses are the normal symptoms of age-related memory loss. Perhaps we just see dementia portrayed in the movies a little too often and we see it everywhere now.
Let’s try to understand why exactly these unhappy tendencies develop as we grow older
It could be a reasonable analogy to liken the way the brain slows down with age to the way the body’s metabolism slows as you grow older. Your brain’s rate of activity simply slows down once you hit your 50s. Past the age of 60, the slowing can really begin to get in the way of everything you do.
There are scientific studies in progress at this time that aim to uncover the possibility that there could be other reasons behind the decline seen in age-related memory loss. Some of them consider the lower rate of blood flow that the aging brain receives with some suspicion. The fact that the brain loses brain cells at a steady rate over the years is another possible cause that they look at.
The bottom line for now
Basically, you really shouldn’t worry if all you have are problems such as an inability to remember where you’ve left the keys to your car. You shouldn’t worry about how you never seem to remember to turn the lights off either (you could begin to worry, though, if you never seem to remember to turn the lights on).
There are certain kinds of memory loss that call for some concern. If you seem to clean forget the name of a close family member at times, that could be a serious symptom. Short of this kind of thing, though, you can rest easy that all you have is regular age-related memory loss.
If none of this reassures you and you still worry that you might be headed for dementia, here is a simple test – ask yourself if your memory loss problem has progressed steadily over the past five years. Simple age-related memory loss doesn’t get worse each passing year. The normal 80-year-old who has trouble remembering words doesn’t ever complain about how the problem has become far worse than when she was 75.
In fact, there’s a simpler and more intuitive way in which you could get some insight into this problem. Have you ever noticed how older people are generally far better at their crossword puzzles than young people are? They wouldn’t be able to do this if they had serious memory loss or real mental decline.
The good news is that you could make healthful changes to your lifestyle and learn healthy habits to actually keep memory loss at bay. Why, you can more or less prevent age-related memory loss with a good exercise routine. There are other things that you could do as well. You could take up new things to learn from time to time and change your dietary habits so that you include more healthy foods in your meals. You could actually get your memory and any other mental faculties that are in decline right back this way.
You don’t really need to do anything for your brain that you wouldn’t do to generally keep yourself healthy. Does your doctor recommend that you take up aerobics for better heart health? That’s actually great for your brain as well. Anything that brings more blood to your brain can do you a world of good. Take up an aerobics class that runs an hour a day and your brain will really thrive for the extra oxygen and blood that it gets.
Your doctor probably recommends a great low-fat diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables for your health. This works very well for your brain as well. In fact, there have actually been studies done at the University of Illinois that have found that people who take vitamin supplements each day do not experience brain shrinkage as they grow older. A diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and a great vitamin supplement that gives you all the essential nutrients that you need will easily protect your brain.
It isn’t that scary
Finally, keeping your brain on its toes does a lot for age-related memory loss. It can pump new life into your brain just to do whatever it is that you find interesting – anything from learning to paint to learning computers. Just learning hard can resurrect your failing memory the way nothing else can.
One doesn’t need to really worry about age-related memory loss. It isn’t really a “loss” of any kind. It’s just that your brain forgets how to remember. Give it a little push in the right direction and your memory will come right back.
The Nurses at Partners in Healthcare are available to talk with you about your in-home care needs including how to reduce caregiver stress while providing better, affordable care. We are a senior care agency providing elder home care serves in the Orlando area, 407-788-9393.
Hank Charpentier, BSB, MBA, MA, Certified Senior Adviser