With Alzheimer’s disease in the news so much, many older folks worry that they might be developing signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. They may be especially concerned about memory loss, which some people see as a red flag for dementia, yet others think is an inevitable part of aging.
Memory Myths and Misconceptions
While we still have much to learn about memory loss, there are a few common misconceptions. Minor forgetfulness is not usually a sign of Alzheimer’s unless it is accompanied by other symptoms or is progressively worsening.
Forgetfulness may be misplacing your checkbook or forgetting to pick up a quart of milk. People with Alzheimer’s tend to have memory lapses due to brain deterioration, which causes problems with thinking, reasoning, communicating and emotions. So they might forget how to use a checkbook or become lost and disoriented at the market.
As far as memory loss being a normal part of aging, there is probably a grain of truth here. As you get older, your mind may get a little slower on the draw when it comes to short-term memory. Your brain and memory still function the same way in the memory marathon, but you may find yourself walking the circuit instead of running it.
If your memory lapses have come on somewhat suddenly, you are likely to find a smoking gun if you look in the right places. You should see your doctor to determine if these or other factors are the culprit.
- alcohol abuse
- drug interactions with other drugs or with alcohol
- poor nutrition
- vitamin deficiencies (especially vitamin B12)
- thyroid disorders
- sleep problems
The Administration on Aging lists some common medications that may cause memory problems (listed by brand name):
Strengthening the Memory Muscles
You do not have to passively accept memory loss. There is a sort of “use it or lose it” theory suggesting that mental and physical inactivity can lead to memory sluggishness.
You can learn simple techniques for improving your memory skills, and you can also stimulate your gray matter by becoming more active and involved with life. Check out the links below for tips for keeping your mind young.