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|Memory Loss With Aging What's Normal, What's Not|
How does the brain store information?
Information is stored in
different parts of your memory. Information stored in the short-term
memory may include the name of a person you met moments ago.
Information stored in the recent memory may include what you ate for
Information stored in the remote memory includes
things that you stored in your memory years ago, such as memories of
How does aging change the
Beginning when you're in your 20s, you begin to lose
brain cells a few at a time. Your body also starts to make less of
the chemicals your brain cells need to work. The older you are, the
more these changes can affect your memory.
Aging may affect
memory by changing the way your brain stores information and by
making it harder to recall stored information.
short-term and remote memories aren't usually affected by aging. But
your recent memory may be affected. You may forget names of people
you've met recently. These are normal changes.
help you remember
- Keep lists.
- Follow a routine.
- Make associations (connect things in your mind), such as using
landmarks to help you find places.
- Keep a detailed calendar.
- Put important items, such as your keys, in the same place
- Repeat names when you meet new people.
- Do things that keep your mind and body busy.
- Run through the ABC's in your head to help you think of words
you're having trouble remembering. "Hearing" the first letter of a
word may jog your memory.
What about when I know a word but can't recall it?
is usually just a glitch in your memory. You'll almost always
remember the word with time. This may become more common as you age.
It can be very frustrating, but it's not usually serious.
What are some other causes of memory problems?
Many things other than aging can cause memory problems.
These include depression, other illnesses, dementia (severe problems
with memory and thinking, such as Alzheimer's disease), side effects
of drugs, strokes, a head injury and alcoholism.
I tell if my memory problems are serious?
A memory problem is
serious when it affects your daily living. If you sometimes forget
names, you're probably okay. But you may have a more serious problem
if you have trouble remembering how to do things you've done many
times before, getting to a place you've been to often, or doing
things that use steps, like following a recipe.
difference between normal memory problems and dementia is that
normal memory loss doesn't get much worse over time. Dementia gets
much worse over several months to several years.
It may be
hard to figure out on your own if you have a serious problem. Talk
to your family doctor about any concerns you have. Your doctor may
be able to help you if your memory problems are caused by a medicine
you're taking or by depression.
How does Alzheimer's
disease change memory?
Alzheimer's disease starts by
changing the recent memory. At first, a person with Alzheimer's
disease will remember even small details of his or her distant past
but not be able to remember recent events or conversations. Over
time, the disease affects all parts of the memory.
problems that aren't part of normal aging
- Forgetting things much more often than you used to
- Forgetting how to do things you've done many times before
- Trouble learning new things
- Repeating phrases or stories in the same conversation
- Trouble making choices or handling money
- Not being able to keep track of what happens each day