Healthy, Age-Related Memory Loss
You frequently forget where you put your keys or glasses.
You find you have trouble remembering the names of people you just met. Sometimes,
you cannot recall the name of an acquaintance. You fail to remember what you
had for dinner yesterday. Are these types of memory failures normal or are
they the beginnings of a disease process, such as Alzheimer
Some aspects of memory do show age-related loss. Specifically,
the ability to immediately retrieve information is most negatively affected
by the aging process. Although healthy individuals may have difficulty recalling
information spontaneously, the information commonly 'pops' into mind when
given cues. As well, healthy older adults report a greater number of 'tip-of-the-tongue'
experiences, i.e., the individual knows exactly what they want to say but
has difficulty finding the right word or name at that particular time. It
is important to note that individuals who exhibit healthy, age-related memory
loss do not have difficulty learning new information and are able to recall
information when given reminders or cues.
Mild changes in memory are a common part of healthy
aging and do not necessarily progress to Alzheimer Disease or other dementia.
If you are concerned that your memory is not what it used to be and that your
forgetfulness is beyond what should be expected in healthy aging, then your
concerns should be discussed with a health care professional or you may contact
us at your convenience. Treatments do exist for mild memory impairment.
Secondary Memory Loss
Memory loss may result from several different medical
and/or psychological conditions, such as stress, depression, anxiety, substance
abuse, medication, brain trauma, stroke, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer Disease,
multiple sclerosis, and exposure to neurotoxins.
When memory loss interferes with daily living, it is
essential to determine the cause of loss so that appropriate treatment may
be implemented. For some conditions, appropriate treatment may restore memory
functioning. For other conditions, it may be necessary to learn adaptive techniques
that may lessen negative impact of memory impairment.
To alleviate anxiety concerning the possibility of
personal memory loss, and to make plans for the future, it is vital to distinguish
between memory changes that commonly occur in healthy aging and memory changes
caused by a medical and/or psychological condition, such as dementia.
Reversible Memory Loss
When we speak of reversible memory loss, we are really
saying that the underlying 'cause' of the memory loss may be reversed. Memory
loss may be a secondary effect of certain conditions such as depression, anxiety,
stress, malnutrition, and alcohol abuse. Once the condition is diagnosed and
properly treated, it is possible that memory functioning will be partially
or completely restored.
Irreversible Memory Loss
Unfortunately, certain causes of memory loss, such
as Alzheimer Disease, may not be reversed. Though some causes are irreversible,
there are medications available that temporarily halt progression of memory
Preventing Memory Loss
New and exciting research is providing insights regarding
ways to optimize memory and thinking abilities. At present, however, there
are no cures of Alzheimer disease or other dementias. All individuals, however,
- Remaining mentally active;
- Engaging in regular physical activity; and
- Being socially active.