Age-related memory loss occurs for a number of reasons, including natural deterioration of brain tissue over time, limited mental stimulation and socialization, and more. Though these lapses in memory can be upsetting, the Mayo Clinic assures readers, “Normal age-related memory loss doesn’t prevent you from living a full and productive life.” Studies show that natural age-related memory loss can even be slowed or stopped by simple mental exercises or by increased activity levels. However, it is important to know what’s considered normal with memory loss in aging and what may require medical intervention.
What memory loss is normal. Have you ever looked all over the house to find your glasses, only to discover they’ve been sitting on your head the whole time? Perhaps you’ve misplaced your grocery list and discover it sitting next to your keys on the table, or forget the name of a co-worker or acquaintance. These are examples of normal age-related memory loss — minor lapses that do not significantly interfere with everyday life.
When to seek help. Beyond normal age-related memory loss, there is minor cognitive impairment, and beyond that there is the possibility of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While most people live their entire lives with relatively healthy memories, it is good to be alert to the danger signs of serious memory issues. It’s OK to forget the keys, but if you find yourself confused about what they’re used for, even for a moment, then you may need to schedule an appointment with your doctor. People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may discover that they forget simple things like how to drive or how to use a can opener.
Monitoring memory loss. If you feel that you may be experiencing abnormal memory loss, then monitoring may be necessary. You can schedule an appointment with your doctor for a memory test now and another in six to 12 months, or you can begin to journal the types of things you’re forgetting and when. If the frequency, duration and severity of memory lapses significantly increase, treatment may be necessary.