Medical Minutes: Answers to frequently asked questions
Question: Dr. Akal, memory loss: what’s normal, what’s not?
Answer: Most people notice that their memory gets worse as they get older.
Information is stored in different parts of your memory. Information stored in the short-term memory may include the name of a person you just told me, whereas recent memory may be what you ate for breakfast. Long-term memory includes things that you stored in your remote past such as childhood memories.
Nerve cells die off as the body ages and scientists liken the problem of memory to a phone network meaning as you age its harder to get through because all the lines are busy. So forgetting a word is just a glitch and you almost always remember the word with time. This may become more common as you age.
It can be very frustrating, but it’s not usually serious.
Many other things affect memory namely depression, dementia (Alzheimer’s, Multi-infarct dementia), alcohol and drugs, medications and thyroid disease so it is important to see your doctor if you notice a change in your memory.
Ensuring a good blood supply to the brain by keeping it active, such as doing crossword puzzles and reading can help keep the brain and your memory good.
Stress releases a natural body chemical called cortisol that can damage brain cells so reducing stress helps too. For example, meditation and exercise can help protect your memory.
A memory problem is serious when it affects your daily living. If its forgetting names or where you placed your car keys, you’re probably okay. But if you have trouble remembering how to do things you’ve done before, or get lost getting to a place you’ve been to often, then you should see your doctor far a formal memory loss evaluation.
Another important point is that normal memory loss doesn’t get much worse over time whereas Dementia gets much worse over several months to several years.
Be sure to visit your doctor if you have any concerns or questions about your memory. Early and regular check-ups are the best medicine.
That way, as you get older, you can enjoy some of the best years of your life!