Memory Loss and Age

November 12, 2012

Memory Loss and Age

Many older adults complain about forgetfulness and memory loss. They forget facts, directions and events, and take more time to learn or recall information. The experience may be frustrating but is not related to dementia.

Causes

Decreased blood flow to the brain and poor absorption of brain-enhancing nutrients can promote loss of memory in the elderly. Reduced production of hormones and proteins can also cause damage of brain cells and memory loss. Many factors including your genetics, environment and lifestyle play a role in maintaining your memory as you age. Other factors that can lead to loss of memory in the elderly include medications such as antihistamines, anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, pain killers and arthritis medications, as well as low levels of vitamin B-12 can lower the ability to remember things in the elderly. Thyroid disease, alcohol abuse and severe dehydration can further aggravate the condition.

Effects

Loss of memory is not an inevitable part of the aging process. Your brain can produce significant amount of new cells at every age, and thereby help prevent memory loss. It is important to remember that your poor memory will not affect your innate common sense, or the ability to perform every day activities.

Forgetting names, glasses and keys can be a normal aspect of the aging process, and do not indicate dementia, which is a disabling condition. Severe memory loss that disrupts your everyday life can, however, be an early sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Management

If you are experiencing loss of memory, there are many things you can do maintain a normal lifestyle. These include leaving regular notes and messages for all important tasks. Note all the important phone numbers at a place where you can reach them in case of an emergency. Organize your belongings properly and use an alarm to remind you of important tasks. Talk to people in a quiet place with minimal distractions, listen carefully and repeat the information to remember it.

Prevention

Loss of memory can be prevented by following some simple techniques. Regular exercise can help create new brain cells, and prevent memory loss associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart problems. Exercise can also help maintain overall mental health. Research conducted by the American Academy of Neurology has also indicated that older adults, who walk for six to nine miles each week, are at a lower risk of suffering from memory loss.

Regular brain exercises including memory games and Sudoku puzzles can also help prevent memory loss. Regular social interaction can also help ward off stress and depression. Join a book club or tutor kids at the library to maintain your memory.

Include plenty of fruits, vegetables and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help maintain brain function, and thereby, prevent loss of memory. You may also do well to lower your stress levels and get a good night’s sleep. This will prevent the damage of nerves and brain cells in the body. Healthy lifestyle habits such as abstinence from alcohol and drugs may also promote good memory.

Talk to your doctor if the memory lapses become frequent, and affect your everyday activities. Your doctor will do a thorough physical examination, analyze your family history, and order tests such as MRI scan or CT scan to identify the underlying conditions responsible for the loss of memory.

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