How Much Forgetfulness Is Normal?

September 03, 2015

Unlike many diseases there are common screening tests and defined courses of treatment, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia cannot be screened. And if either is found, there isn’t treatment that can reverse their course. 

NextAvenue.org recently featured an article offering advice to answer the difficult question of:

Is this normal? Or is this dementia?

Beginning to become much more forgetful is a natural and common part of the aging process.

“Our brains age just like the rest of our bodies,” says Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and co-author with Gigi Vorgan of Two Weeks to a Younger Brain. “One of the manifestations of brain age is forgetfulness.

“One of the first things to go is the speed of information processing. Your ability to quickly read, understand and process information slows, as does your ability to handle more than one task at a time,” he says. “And of course, you will find yourself grasping for words every now and then. But more worrisome is a major change in your ability to function in the world.” Small agrees. “If you forget where you placed your keys, that’s normal,” he says. “If you forget how to use your keys, that’s a problem. You may once in a while forget where you parked your car, but if that happens to you once a week, that’s more like dementia.”

 

Normal Forgetting is a Function of Distraction

“One reason we forget is that we haven’t given the information meaning. If something’s meaningful, it’s memorable,” Small says. “Pay attention to what you are doing. As our businesses grow or our lives become more complex, we don’t pay attention because some information is not necessary to accomplish our goals”.

If you feel that the not paying your surroundings proper attention due to increased stress or responsibilities for example, is not the root of your forgetfulness. Senelick recommends a test developed by a team of researches at the Washington University in St. Louis to differentiate between cognitive decline and typical aging. The AD8 interview, is made up of eight yes-or-no questions that assess whether there has been any noticeable change over time in the person’s behavior as see through a series of scenarios. Thankfully the test is routine enough that your loved ones can give it to you and evaluate your cognitive status.

 

Dr. Small has compiled a list of tips for four of the most common memory problems:

  

Remembering Names and Faces

It happens to everyone. You can recognize the person’s face, shirt, or voice, but not their face. Small suggests, as soon as you meet them, associate their name with something that you are familiar with. For example Mr. Black, has black hair, you can easily remember “Black has black hair” .

 

Tip-Of-The-Tongue Problems

In the moment you cannot remember the name of the actor in that movie and it bothers you until you remember in the shower the next morning. Small recommends writing down the name of the difficult to remember movie and write does as many words that you can associate with it as possible. Writing out these words will help you access these words in the future much easier.

 

Memory Planes

Everyone misplaces things after you have placed them down. The most obvious way to solve this is to put your wallet in the same place everyday. But, if you are unable to, say where you are placing your wallet aloud “I am putting my wallet in my desk drawer”. If both of the options are unavailable, then do not put your item down.

 

Prospective Memory

Forgetting appointments, leaving your house without that file, all things that can easily ruin your day. Small recommends making “memory habits”. Small describes these memory habits simply as “What I recommend is to check your calendar at the same time and in the same place each day. Before you leave your house, think through what’s involved in what you are going to do. Do you have your insurance card? Do you have the folder you need to prepare your taxes?  Do you need to bring anything else with you?”

 

More tips to keep your memory sharp from Dr.Small: 

 

Exercise

Your heart pumping more will mean that more oxygen will reach your brain, keeping your brain in its best shape.

 

Reduce Stress

Stress hormones like cortisol, can inhibit brain cells. Also when stressed your brain is distracted by those things that are stressing you.

 

Eat Well 

Eat a diet with omega fatty acids (fish & olive oil) will give your body the power to build new cells. Foods heavy in Vitamin B-12 (meat, seafood, milk) can also help the brain by encouraging methylation, a process that the brains need to be healthy, and in some studies has shown to be a process lacking in those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Check Your Medications

Many medications can have a serious impact on how your brain works. Double check online if the memory loss might be a side effect, if so request an alternative from your doctor.




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