We all experience memory lapses, no matter our age. After all, who hasn’t forgotten a phone number or the name of a person we have once been introduced to. However, as we get older and undergo physiological changes our mental processes can get slower. Nevertheless, it is important not to confuse normal age-related forgetfulness with memory loss.
Since we can create new brain cells at any age, many cognitive functions remain unaffected by aging. As such, most memory lapses such as forgetting the location of your keys or not being able to recall certain information are not signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
However, if your memory loss is affecting your ability to function on a day to day basis, you may be looking at the warning signs of dementia or another similar condition. Some of the more common signs of dementia include getting disoriented in familiar places, difficulty making decisions, and forgetting words or things that you do on a regular basis.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can be an indication of the onset of dementia. Unfortunately, the difference between normal age-related forgetfulness and MCI is not always clear — it is often a matter of the severity of a person’s memory lapses. For instance, while it is normal to forget the name of an acquaintance, it is not so normal to forget the name of a loved one.
Some of the more common symptoms of MCI include forgetting conversations and appointments, losing things, and the inability to follow conversations. While MCI can turn into Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, this is not a given. Some individuals with MCI never progress to full-blown dementia and even regain their cognitive functions.
If your memory lapses are serious enough to interfere with your day-to-day life or concern a loved one, it may be time to see a doctor. A physician will be able to evaluate your risk factors and symptoms and suggest a course of treatment. Some causes of memory loss are reversible, including depression, stress or even just a vitamin deficiency. And if your doctor diagnoses an onset of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, they will be able to suggest solutions to minimize your symptoms and obtain the appropriate care.
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