Do you walk into a room without remembering why you’re there? Have you met a known person without remembering their name? Are you often frantically looking for your car keys, glasses or other things?
For many of us, memory leaks become more frequent as we age. Our brains form fewer and fewer connections, so our memory is not as strong as it used to be. It takes us longer to remember basic information, such as names, dates or where we put the car keys. “As we age, the speed of brain processing slows and the ability to remember information decreases” said Dr. Anne Fabiny, head of the geriatric department at the Cambridge Health Alliance and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School.
“Memory loss is annoying, but it’s not necessarily a sign of dementia,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. The secret is to notice how often they occur. “We need to identify a pattern of them,” he said. “
Does it happen a few times a week or once or twice a month? Are there changes from five or ten years ago? Is the situation getting worse every day?
Percentage of adults, by age category, who sometimes or frequently have problems remembering names
18 years – 13% 45 years – 35% 55 years – 38% 75 years – 51%
Why are you forgetting
Forgetting can be a normal process in aging. Memory leaks can be caused by other conditions or conditions, such as:
Lack of sleep
- Medications, such as those you take for allergies, chronic pain, and urgency or urinary incontinence
- Alcohol (several or more glasses at once)
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Thyroid disorders
- Major depression and other psychiatric disorders
All these conditions can be treated. For example, you can adjust your sleep schedule, apply deep breathing techniques or other stress reduction techniques, change the doses or type of medications you take, reduce alcohol consumption, take supplements, take vitamin supplements, or take treatment for thyroid disorders or depression.
When to go to the doctor
Don’t be alarmed when it comes to small daily memory problems. You should consult a doctor when you have persistent or worrying memory loss that affects your activities and daily routine and begin to damage your lifestyle. “If you notice other cognitive problems associated with memory loss – such as difficulty speaking, organizing, visual perception, or a sense of direction – or if you notice changes in personality and behavior, then you need to worry,” says Dr. Marshall.
If you or a loved one has noticed any such change in your abilities and personality, go to the doctor. You could see a geriatrician or a geriatric psychiatrist for an evaluation. The tests will assess your memory, attention, problem solving, speech and other skills. You can also go for a neurological checkup and a brain MRI to investigate changes that may explain the cause of the cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease or vascular disease.
Slowing memory loss
You don’t have to wait to lose your memory. There are two things you can do to preserve your mental function as you get older: diet and exercise.
“There are several major studies that have shown that the Mediterranean diet helps to slow down or prevent cognitive decline during the aging process,” says Dr. Marshall. The Mediterranean diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, fish and moderate amounts of red wine. “There are also many studies that show that an effective exercise program three or four times a week can prevent cognitive decline or slow its evolution,” he adds. These studies recommend maintaining an active life as a solution to prevent or delay the progression of brain damage leading to Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia. Exercise acts as a shield of the brain against damage on many fronts, including by improving blood flow, protecting the blood vessels that supply the brain and reducing stress hormone levels.
A socially and mentally active life is also recommended. Although studies have not confirmed the benefits of Sudoku * and other brain training activities, they cannot harm you. Challenge your brain by tackling different mental tasks and gradually increasing their level of difficulty; for example, you can change the low complexity crossword puzzle in the newspaper you read daily to the most difficult one in the Sunday paper. “You don’t have to practice the circuits you already have,” says Dr. Fabiny. “You will remain cognitively strong if you learn new things and develop new neurocognitive pathways.”
Also, do not neglect the value of social relations. Watching a movie that stimulates your thinking or dinner with friends are solutions to avoid loneliness and social isolation, which can affect your mental, cognitive and mental health.
Forgetting: when is normal and when to ask for help
See a doctor
- Forget the name of a friend you haven’t seen in a long time
- You strive to remember the name of a family member you see weekly.
- You can’t find the car keys.
- You don’t remember how to drive.
- You get lost in the car on the way to a new doctor’s office.
- You are disoriented while driving to a family destination and you do not know where to go.
- Forget to pay your bills one month in a row.
- You forget what you ate at dinner last night, but you remember as soon as you get a clue.
- Forget what you ate at dinner last night and don’t remember what clues you get.
- Forget about taking your pills on time.
- Forget to take your pills for several days in a row.
- You joke about memory leaks with friends and family.
- Your partner or family members are concerned about your memory loss.
Five things that will stimulate your memory
Be more organized. Write down in a calendar, notebook or on the phone the list of what you have to do. Put labels on the boxes where you keep your glasses, car keys or other things you use often and keep them in accessible locations. Place visual notes in the house to stimulate your memory.
Repeat the information. “If you are introduced to someone and you want to remember their name, don’t just nod and smile. Say the person’s name, “Dr. Fabiny recommends. For example, you might say, “I’m glad to meet you, Lisa.” Attention to detail – such as Lisa’s hair color or her profession – will also help you remember her name later.
Don’t be distracted. Do one thing at a time. Turn off your TV, computer, telephone and any other equipment that may distract you from what you have to do.
Separate information. It is easier to remember new information when you divide it into smaller pieces. For example, you can try to memorize sections of a friend’s phone number. Read only a few pages of a heavy book at a time. Make sure you have retained the first information before moving on to the next one.
Take notes. Carry a notebook or a pocket recorder with you to record new information. Recording or recording information helps to imprint it in memory.
* Sudoku is a puzzle game of numbers on a sheet of 9 squares, each with 9 other squares inside. In these boxes, there are already certain numbers. The object of the game is to fill in the rest of the empty squares so that each large square (3 x 3) contains numbers from 1 to 9, all appearing only once.
Photo by Jesse Martini / Unsplash