Now and again, you might forget where you put your keys or parked your car. Once in a while you may mix up the names of your children, or be unable to recall the name of your doctor’s receptionist. Hopefully, you never forget to turn off the oven or the stove, but that happens also. As you get older, it becomes more challenging to learn new things or remember recent events. Mild memory loss is a normal part of getting older and not a cause for worry. Still, you may wonder, what’s a normal part of aging, and what’s Alzheimer’s?
For some people, the sore knees and aching back that come with old age is easier to accept than the cognitive decline. It takes a little longer to swallow the fact that the brain, which used to learn new concepts quickly, starts to slow. The brain’s cognitive function peaks at the age of 30 and starts to decline faster after 40. However, mild memory loss is common and usually not a problem.
As you get older, the speed at which your brain functions starts to slow. These changes are typically subtle, but noticeable. You might find yourself having a harder time multi-tasking or sustaining your attention. Books that used to keep you interested can begin to bore you after three pages. Changes in parts of the brain (hippocampus, frontal, and temporal lobes) as you age start to affect your brain’s ability to retain information and hold attention. Although it can be bothersome and embarrassing, it doesn’t interfere with your day-to-day activities.
Mild memory loss, also known as mild cognitive impairment, is a change in brain function that’s more than what is expected for a person’s age. Although more pronounced and much less subtle than typical cognitive aging, mild cognitive impairment doesn’t interfere too much with a person’s daily life. They can still go shopping, do the laundry, and cook a meal.
When memory loss starts to get in the way of functioning, then there is cause for concern. If a person can no longer remember how to start the dryer to finish a laundry load, or which road to turn on to get home from work, it may indicate dementia. The causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body disease, and vascular disorders.
Just because you didn’t remember to pay a bill or two doesn’t mean you have Alzheimer’s or dementia. You could be stressed, in a rush, or it could be normal aging. Less than 1% of people over 65 get dementia each year, so the chances that you have it are slim. Nevertheless, the following tips are a few ways to tell if you have normal cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s.
12. Do the Math
You don’t have to be a math whiz, but when cognitive decline starts to affect your basic math, it could indicate Alzheimer’s. Math involves sequential processes and details, both of which a brain in cognitive decline can have problems doing. If you find yourself unable to add and subtract basic numbers or are no longer able to balance your checkbook, you may need to see your doctor for a check-up.
11. Changes in Personality
People who are experiencing Alzheimer’s symptoms may have a change in personality. Although they may not realize how much they’re forgetting, people with Alzheimer’s may become frustrated and confused that their world doesn’t seem the same. Becoming easily agitated or suddenly withdrawn, they may exhibit uncharacteristic changes in their behavior. Friends and family may observe their loved ones becoming easily upset when performing common everyday tasks.