When is the last time you gave serious thought to memory loss and its effect on your well-being? Can't remember? That's OK — it doesn't mean you should be concerned.
Just because you sometimes forget your neighbor's name doesn't mean you're developing dementia, a loss of brain function that affects memory, thinking and behavior. But there are signs and risk factors that may point to more serious problems, such as Alzheimer's disease, the most common type of dementia.
Julie Schneider, MD, a neurologist and neuropathologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, shares some helpful information on memory loss, such as when to be concerned and what you can do to stay sharp.
While it might seem like forgetfulness comes with growing older, Schneider says it's not a given.
"We have conducted studies at Rush where we use annual cognitive testing to track memory and other cognitive functions in people from ages 65 to over 100, and some of them don’t have any memory loss with age. So you certainly can age without having any significant memory loss."
On occasion, all of us forget things. It's when forgetfulness becomes more persistent and severe, affects everyday function, and other people who are close to you take notice that it may signal there is a problem.
"For instance, you may frequently forget what people tell you, forget recent events, or get lost in familiar locations," Schneider explains. "In addition, a problem may become evident when your family or friends note that you are asking repetitive questions or repeating yourself or having other memory problems."
If you have a first-degree relative who has Alzheimer's, your risk for the disease goes up — similar to other diseases that run in families — so that would be a reason to be especially mindful of any memory changes. But if you occasionally misplace things, forget a word or forget someone's name, those aren't reasons to be concerned.
Research at Rush and other centers worldwide has shown that the following behaviors may help protect against dementia and Alzheimer's disease, or delay the onset:
Sign up now for free health tips and medical news.