Should I Forget About It?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
David Abrams
 Many of our patients are concerned about memory loss.  We call this phenomenon age-related memory disorder.  As we grow older, changes occur in our body and the brain is no exception. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to process or learn new material or forget and misplaced personal items. These problems can be frustrating, but occasional episodes of memory lapses most often reflect a normal part of the aging process and not a warning sign of serious mental deterioration or onset of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.  And, owing to the burgeoning awareness of social media and cable news cycles in recent years age-related memory loss has been widely publicized causing even more worry among the old and elderly who may have experienced periodic difficulty with memory. 

These forms of periodic memory difficulties have minimal impact on a person's daily performance and activity. Forgetting your keys is annoying, but not debilitating. Retrieving memories from long-term storage such as remembering a name may take a little longer.  But in fact, there are things that everyone can do to improve the situation.  There are aids such as context and cues can help recover the information. For example, posting a sticky note on a fridge to remind you of important things or keeping a daily journal can help facilitate recall. Similarly, creating mnemonics by linking the desired information with a visual image, sentence or word can also support the learning and retention of new memories. 

Additionally, it is well-known that adopting healthy habits of proper diet exercise, in particular, resistance exercise is very helpful in maintaining brain function.  Proper.  On the physician side, we want to be certain that medications do not adversely impact cognitive function and that we are particularly careful about maintaining proper blood pressure and surveillance of blood chemical test.

 In contrast, true cognitive decline is a more complex phenomenon with multiple causes and can manifest in a variety of ways. Dementia is marked by persistent, disabling decline in intellectual abilities. Significant changes in personality, neglecting personal safety and hygiene even becoming lost in familiar setting are potentially more serious signs of cognitive regression.  In that circumstance, we will be making recommendations that patients undergo more significant evaluation and testing.

There are many ways to mitigate the inevitable age-related memory difficulties that patients experience as well as things that one can do that reduce risk of cognitive decline. To maximize brain function it is important to include physical, mental and social activities that stimulate the brain. Exercising and eating healthy, obtaining annual wellness exams and challenging the mind with mind-training exercises help to improve brainpower. Attention to proper, restorative sleep patterns and stress reduction possibly engaging in mindfulness and even meditation are definitely beneficial.

  In the office we can more completely evaluate symptoms evaluate symptoms, review personal risk factors and carry out specific tests to determine memory and mental ability. Early diagnosis and prevention can treat causes of memory loss and result in a better quality of life