Learn if it’s part of normal aging or something else
As we get older, it’s common to have minor memory slips like forgetting where we put our glasses or keys, or not remembering someone’s name. It’s also common to wonder if your forgetfulness—or the forgetfulness of someone you care about—is what experts call “age-associated memory impairment,” considered part of the normal aging process, or if it’s Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out simple tasks.
It’s not always easy to tell the difference between age-related changes and the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. One key distinguishing factor is if a person is developing changes in their usual abilities. For example, if the person was never good at balancing a checkbook, struggling with this task is probably not a warning sign. But if their ability to balance a checkbook has recently changed, it may be something to share with a doctor.
Here are some additional examples to help you distinguish between normal aging and what could be a sign of dementia. Read it as a general guideline only and not as a diagnostic tool.
- Not being able to remember details of a conversation or event that took place a year ago
- Not being able to remember the name of an acquaintance
- Forgetting things and events occasionally
- Occasionally have difficulty finding words
- You are worried about your memory but your relatives are not
- Not being able to recall details of recent events or conversations
- Not recognizing or knowing the names of family members
- Forgetting things or events more frequently
- Frequent pauses and substitutions when finding words
- Your relatives are worried about your memory, but you are not aware of any problems
If you are worried about your memory, talk to your family doctor.
Tips for coping with normal age-related memory difficulties:
- Keep a usual routine
- Organize information (keep details in a calendar or day planner)
- Put items in the same spot (for instance, always put your keys in the same place by the door)
- Repeat information (for example, repeat names when you meet people)
- Run through the alphabet in your head to help you remember a word
- Make associations by relating new information to things you already know
- Involve your senses (for example, if you are a visual learner, visualize an item)
- Teach others or tell them stories
- Get a full night’s sleep
- Learn more about what you can do to strengthen your memory and maintain your brain health
Worried about Alzheimer’s disease? Learn the facts.
Alzheimer’s affects memory, thinking and behavior; one in 10 people in the U.S. age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia. Age, family history and heredity are all risk factors that can’t be changed. However, new research is beginning to reveal clues about other risk factors we may be able to influence through general lifestyle and wellness choices and effective management of other health conditions like high blood pressure. One promising line of research suggests that strategies for overall healthy aging may help keep the brain healthy and may even reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. These measures include eating a healthy diet, staying socially active, avoiding tobacco and excess alcohol, and exercising both the body and mind.
Know the 10 warning signs
It’s important to recognize the warning signs of Alzheimer’s. If you or someone you care about is experiencing any of the 10 warning signs below, see a doctor to find the cause. Early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for the future.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble with understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
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