If you find yourself forgetting where you set down your purse or car keys, can’t remember the name of your daughter’s new friend, or frequently misplace your reading glasses, you aren’t alone. Forgetfulness is a natural part of the aging process, and these lapses in memory are often lightheartedly referred to as “senior moments.”
However, many older adults may start to become concerned that something more serious is going on with their memories. After all, Alzheimer’s disease is most prevalent in those aged 65 and older, affecting not only your memory, but also your cognition and behavior. Alzheimer’s symptoms will gradually worsen over time as the brain function continues to decline. It’s vital to understand the differences between normal memory loss and signs of Alzheimer’s disease, as an early diagnosis can help ensure you can continue to enjoy the highest quality of life possible.
Memory Loss and Aging
As you age, biological changes in your brain occur, especially in regard to memory and learning. For instance, the region of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is responsible for your ability to form and retrieve memories, can begin to deteriorate. Some of the proteins and hormones that repair and protect brain cells also decline with age. Additionally, memory and cognitive skills may also be affected in your later years by a decreased flow of blood in your brain.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, some of the milder symptoms can be quite similar to the normal memory loss associated with aging. If you’re concerned you may be experiencing any of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to visit your doctor to find out if you’re truly at risk.
So, what are some of the normal signs of memory loss that may occur in your later years? These are the types of memory lapses that are considered a normal part of the aging process:
- Missing appointments when they are not written down on a calendar
- Trouble retrieving information that’s on the tip of your tongue
- Misplacing or forgetting where you left certain things, like your keys, wallet, glasses, etc.
- Leaving projects unfinished because you get easily distracted
- Difficulty recalling or explaining information you just read or heard
- Calling friends or loved ones the wrong name, like addressing your sister as your daughter
- Forgetting the names of new acquaintances
It’s important to note that making healthy lifestyle choices like exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet, and staying socially active can all have a positive impact on your brain, helping to slow some of this normal cognitive decline.
Recognizing Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
As mentioned previously, in the early stages, Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult to properly diagnose. However, experts do agree that the sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner treatment can begin which can help slow the progression of the disease.
A few of the most common symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Trouble performing everyday tasks, like balancing a checkbook
- Getting disoriented or lost in familiar places
- Problems with recalling the right word for everyday objects
- Getting lost or becoming disoriented in familiar places
- Difficulty recalling recent events
- Losing interest in or forgetting how to take part in activities you’ve always enjoyed
- Displaying poor judgment or falling victim to a scam targeting seniors
- Altogether forgetting a loved one’s name, or the inability to recognize familiar faces
Alzheimer’s disease involves memory loss that ultimately disrupts your daily life, affecting your relationships, your social life and hobbies, and your career. The damage caused by Alzheimer’s is more severe and interferes with larger regions of the brain, making it difficult for brain cells to communicate properly with each other, and eventually leads to the death of both nerve cells and tissue. Seek medical attention immediately if you’re noticing any of the above signs.
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