Memory Loss: When to Visit Your Doctor

Everyone experiences minor memory lapses throughout their life, such as forgetting the name of an acquaintance or not being able to remember where you put something. But as we grow older, forgetfulness may occur more frequently.

Approximately one in eight Americans over 60 years old claim to experience diminishing memory abilities. If you are experiencing memory and cognitive issues, these changes can be frightening and concerning for yourself and loved ones. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between age-related memory loss and a severe cognitive problem.

Age-related memory loss can develop naturally with increased age. Most often, it occurs with one’s short term memory. However, this shouldn’t prevent the person from being able to function normally and independently.

Here are some examples of normal age-related memory loss that many Americans experience:

  • Sometimes forgetting where you placed commonly-used items
  • Confusing names of one relative with another
  • Forgetting the name of an acquaintance
  • Periodically forgetting a plan or appointment
  • Having difficulties remembering something you just read or heard
  • Unable to recall information that feels as though it’s “on the tip of your tongue”

Despite popular belief, memory loss of any kind is not inevitable. If you keep your mind and body active, stay social, play brain teasers, eat healthy, take vitamins and get plenty of sleep, you’re on the right track to decreasing your chances for memory loss.

Unfortunately, memory impairment can become so severe that it is disabling for the person, leaving them unable to fulfill previously-managed tasks or live independently. When cognitive abilities seem so omnipresent that the person’s standard of life is affected, then that’s a sign something is wrong and a doctor needs to be seen.

Here are some examples of memory loss that could be signs of a serious disease:

  • Unable to or having difficulty doing basic, common tasks that have been performed many times in that person’s life
  • Getting lost or disoriented in familiar places
  • Commonly misplacing items, especially when they are found in inappropriate places
  • Trouble expressing thoughts
  • Asking the same question over and over again
  • Repeating the same comment or story in one conversation
  • Commonly forgetting or misusing words
  • Garbled speech
  • Showing poor judgment and acting inappropriately
  • Difficulty making choices
  • Confusion
  • Dramatic changes in mood or behavior for no reason
  • Losing track of the date or time
  • Not remembering past occurrences of memory loss

While dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are perhaps the most commonly known cognitive diseases with increased age, there are several types of diagnosable conditions for a declining mental state. That being said, if you know someone who is experiencing any of the abnormal, above-mentioned symptoms, it is crucial that they see a doctor immediately, because it could be a sign of a serious or fatal disease.

Aging is inevitable, but by keeping our minds and bodies active and healthy, we can live longer, fuller lives.

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