While memory loss is generally considered to be a normal part of aging, the Mayo Clinic states, “Your brain changes as you grow older just like the rest of your body. Many people notice gradually increasing forgetfulness as they age.” However, it is important to know the difference between normal age-related loss and the type of memory loss that may indicate a medical problem. Low levels of memory loss may slowly become alarming, possibly indicating mild cognitive impairment (MCI). While MCI can develop into a more serious condition such as Alzheimer’s, it often does not progress. It may even be an indicator of a treatable disease that will require medical intervention.
Lack of focus. It’s normal for the mind to wander, especially if you have a hard time finding stimulating activities or are struggling with depression. However, if you find yourself unable to concentrate on conversations, the story line in books or movies, or other similar activities, a problem may be developing. Lifestyle factors such as diet, activity level and the amount of sleep you get may help rule out memory issues when you experience a lack of focus.
Increased confusion. One of the signs that normal age-related memory loss has potentially progressed to mild cognitive impairment is an increase in feelings of confusion or disorientation. You may discover that you forget words or names, can’t find your way along a familiar route, or frequently begin a task and are unable to remember what it was before you can finish.
Deteriorating memory. Obviously, one of the primary indicators of a possible memory problem is difficulty retaining and recalling memories. In most cases, this will start with difficulty creating new memories — people you’ve just met become harder and harder to remember, newly-acquired skills and information elude you, or the lyrics to songs just won’t stick no matter how hard you try. In these early stages, memory loss warning signs may be trying to indicate something wrong with your overall health that can be treated. Even if it is a serious memory disease such as Alzheimer’s, early intervention may be able to delay progression of the disease.