Some degree of memory loss is a normal part of the aging process. Everyone forgets things at some time or another, whether it is where you left your car keys or purse, or the name of that person who waved at you in the supermarket. But when memory loss begins to impact on normal life, it could the sign of a more serious problem such as dementia and you should talk to your doctor about your problems with memory loss and aging.
Normal memory loss and aging
As we grow older, we inevitably experience a decline in cognitive function. Usually this can be solved by writing things down more and making little reminder lists to ensure we do not forget important dates and appointments. These memory loss problems are usually very minor and unless you forget a loved one’s birthday, unlikely to cause any great problems.
Research has indicated that the normal aging process affects episodic memory as well as short term memory. Episodic memory includes source memory, so when this is impaired, you might remember a piece of information, but not where you first heard it. A decline in episodic memory also affects our ability to recall pieces of information and make the necessary links between one fact and another, such as where you know a person from.
How to treat memory loss
Although the natural process of memory loss can not be averted entirely as it is perfectly normal, there are ways to improve memory skills and slow down the inevitable decline most of us experience as we get older.
Staying physically active will help to halt the decline, so try and include a period of exercise into your daily routine. Staying mentally active will also help and completing simple games such as crossword and soduku puzzles every day will help to keep the brain in full working order. Eating a healthy diet is also very important and research has indicated that elderly people who eat healthily are far less likely to go on to develop Alzheimer’s.
Abnormal memory loss and aging
Aside from the normal effects of aging, memory problems can be caused by an underlying health problem or a deterioration of brain function as a result of dementia. The term dementia covers a large number of symptoms related to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, the problems with memory loss can also occur as a result of a brain injury or a stroke.
Serious memory loss is very often the first sign that something is wrong with an elderly person, so if their memory loss appears to be more than a bit of occasional forgetfulness, it could be cause for concern. It is usually short term memory that is affected in cases of dementia and the person might have no problems remembering events that took place many decades ago, but forget crucial things such as where they live and how to make a cup of tea.
If you are concerned about memory loss in a loved one and suspect they might be in the early stages of dementia, seek professional help as early intervention can slow down the progression of the disease.