Mental & Emotional Health
Fighting Mild Forgetfulness
Editor’s note: Dementia, including Alzheimer’s, is one of the most frightening health problems, especially as we age. It cannot be prevented or cured, and it is marked by a humiliating mental decline. Because it affects primarily older people, many of us are frightened by signs of forgetfulness or memory loss. Here, the experts from the National Institute on Aging explain the issue of mild forgetfulness and how you can handle it:
What is mild forgetfulness?
Some of us get more forgetful as we age. It may take longer to learn new things, remember certain words, or find our glasses. These changes are often signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems.
How can I keep my memory sharp and stay alert?
Learn a new skill.
Volunteer in your community, at a school, or at your place of worship.
Spend time with friends and family.
Use memory tools such as big calendars, to-do lists, and notes to yourself.
Put your wallet or purse, keys, and glasses in the same place each day.
Get lots of rest.
Exercise and eat well.
Don’t drink a lot of alcohol.
Get help if you feel depressed for weeks at a time
See your doctor if you’re worried about your forgetfulness. Tell him or her about your concerns. Be sure to make a follow-up appointment to check your memory in the next six months to a year. If you think you might forget, ask a family member, friend, or the doctor’s office to remind you.
What’s the difference between mild forgetfulness and serious memory problems?
Serious memory problems make it hard to do everyday things. For example, you may find it hard to drive, shop, or even talk with a friend. The signs include:
Asking the same question over and over again
Getting lost in places you know well
Not being able to follow directions
Becoming more confused about time, people, places
Not taking care of yourself – eating poorly, not bathing, being unsafe
What are the causes of memory loss?
Many things can lead to serious memory problems, including as blood clots, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Other possible causes include:
A bad reaction to certain medicines
Not eating enough healthy foods, or having too few vitamins and minerals in your body
Drinking too much alcohol
Blood clots or tumors in the brain
Head injury, such as a concussion from a fall or accident
Thyroid, kidney or liver problems
If you are having serious memory problems, be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible. All the conditions listed above are serious and may require treatment.
For a free National Institute on Aging booklet about memory, click here.