Memory Lapses: What’s Normal And When To Seek Help

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Learn about the distinction between normal memory lapse and age-related memory loss in this article.

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In this article:

  1. What Is Normal Memory Lapse Like?
  2. What Causes Age-Related Memory Loss?
  3. How Is Normal Forgetfulness Different from Dementia?
  4. What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
  5. When Should You See a Doctor?
  6. What Should You Expect During Your Visit to the Doctor?
  7. How Can You Take Care of Your Memory?

Must-Know Memory Loss Facts

What Is Normal Memory Lapse Like?

Misplaced keys, forgotten names and phone numbers, suddenly forgetting what you went in the kitchen for are familiar lapses many of us experience.

You don’t pay much attention to this when you’re young but as you grow older, these instances can worry you.

As you grow older, there are changes in the body that affect your cognitive functions. It may take you longer to process and recall information, and you may not think as quickly as you used to.

You may mistake these lapses for true memory loss but in most cases, the information will come to mind if you give it time. These cognitive slips can be frustrating but they shouldn’t be a cause for concern most of the time.

What Causes Age-Related Memory Loss?

Age-related memory loss is caused by:

  1. Deterioration of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory formation and retrieval
  2. The decline of brain cell reparative, protective, and growth hormones and proteins
  3. Decreased blood flow to the brain in older people can impair memory and lead to cognitive changes

How Is Normal Forgetfulness Different from Dementia?

For the majority of us, occasional memory lapses like the following are just an indication of the normal aging process and not warning signs of serious mental impairment or the onset of dementia:

  • Occasionally walking into a room and forgetting why you did
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Having difficulty remembering what you’ve just read or conversation details
  • Occasionally misplacing things you use regularly
  • Having the “on the tip of your tongue” moments
  • Forgetting and mistaking names of acquaintances

The major distinction between dementia and age-related memory loss is that the latter is not debilitating. Memory lapses do not have a major impact on your day to day performance.

Dementia, on the other hand, is characterized by a persistent, disabling decline of two or more cognitive abilities like language, judgment, memory, and abstract thinking. Symptoms of dementia include:

  • Forgetting how to do things, e.g. a daily routine
  • Difficulty in doing simple tasks like washing up or putting on a shirt
  • Getting disoriented
  • Inability to follow directions
  • Getting lost even in familiar locations
  • Having trouble making simple choices or may show poor judgment
  • Behaving in a socially inappropriate manner
  • Repeating stories and phrases in the same conversation
  • Frequently forgetting, misusing, or garbling words

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

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Between normal age-related changes in cognitive functions and severe symptoms which indicate dementia is mild cognitive impairment or MCI. People with MCI have problems with language, thinking, judgment, and memory at a greater degree than normal age-related lapses.

The line between MCI and normal memory lapses isn’t always clear cut—the difference is often always subtle.

For example, it’s normal to have trouble remembering names as you age but it isn’t when you forget the names of close friends and family then still recall them after some time.

If you have MCI, you and your family and friends will notice the obvious decline in your memory or cognitive abilities. However, unlike patients with dementia, the memory lapses do not debilitate you.

Although many cases of MCI eventually progress to Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, it’s not a guarantee. Some MCI patients plateau at a mild stage of decline, while others regain normal cognitive function.

When Should You See a Doctor?

When memory lapses become sufficiently noticeable or frequent to alarm you or your family members, it is best to see a doctor right away, or even without the display of all the symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

What Should You Expect During Your Visit to the Doctor?

Your doctor will assess your risk factors, evaluate your symptoms, and help you get the proper care. Early diagnosis can identify and treat reversible memory loss causes, decrease the decline in vascular dementia, and improve your quality of life.

He/She may ask you about the following:

  • What things have been hard to remember?
  • Did the difficulty come suddenly or gradually?
  • Can you still perform simple tasks?
  • How long have you noticed this memory problem?
  • What medications have you been taking?

Your doctor may also ask you about your diet and sleep quality, mental health, and other inquiries about your lifestyle. Depending on your case, your doctor may refer you to a neuropsychologist.

These reversible causes of memory loss will also be assessed during your visit:

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  • Dehydration. Severe dehydration can lead to drowsiness, confusion, memory loss, and other dementia-like symptoms.
  • Depression. This mental health disorder can imitate the signs of memory loss resulting in concentration difficulties, inability to stay organized, remember things, and get things done.
  • Alcohol Abuse. Too much alcohol intake can be toxic to neurons. Alcohol abuse may lead to memory loss.
  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency. Vitamin B12 protects our neurons and is important in keeping our brain healthy and well-functioning. Lack of this vitamin can lead to permanent brain damage.
  • Thyroid Problems. Thyroid problems can cause memory problems like forgetfulness and concentration difficulties.

How Can You Take Care of Your Memory?

By taking good care of your body and mind, you also take care of your memory. If you want to take preventive actions for cognitive decline, you need to improve other aspects of your life.

Here are a few tips you can follow:

  1. Socialize. Healthy social interaction is a powerful brain medicine and can reduce stress.
  2. Try new games, read challenging books, and learn new skills.
  3. Stop smoking since it can decrease blood flow to the brain.
  4. Practice stress management techniques. Try Dr. Seeds Chill Pill to help manage anxiety.
  5. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation reduces neuron growth in the hippocampus and may cause memory problems.
  6. Exercise regularly to keep healthy blood flow to the brain.
  7. Eat foods good for the brain like salmon, tuna, trout, walnuts, and flaxseed.

Protect your thyroid to avoid memory problems! Check out this video review about the Dr. Seeds thyroid support system:

By knowing the difference between what’s normal and alarming, you can take action right away. Dementia is a challenging condition and early diagnosis can help improve one’s quality of life.

Do you know of any brain exercise? Share it in the comments section below!

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