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Published: February 18, 2019

Feeling Forgetful?

As you age, it is natural that your memory is not going to be as good as it used to be.  If you have children, you may notice how well their memory functions.  However, as you move further into adulthood, you may find that your memory is decreased.  In fact, it is known that most people experience decreases in their ability to learn new things and remember them as they age.

Part of these changes in memory can be related to lack of attention as your focus is divided in so many different areas.  For example, if you are a working parent, sometimes it can be overwhelming to remember all the appointments for the whole family.  You need to know who needs to go where and when.  That is why using a calendar becomes extremely important.  This would be considered normal memory problems.

Another reason for the increased difficulty in remembering things as you age is also biological.  The brain changes, and those areas related to memory are also affected with mild impairments occurring in memory.  The ability to process information and to react to it slows, as does the ability to multi-task.  However, with a little more effort to learn and remember new things as you age, it is still possible.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that the cognitive and biological changes seen in normal aging are not the same as those seen in abnormal cognitive changes that occur due to dementias such as Alzheimer's, for example.

So, how can we differentiate normal forgetfulness from abnormal forgetfulness?

Here are some ways...

1. The passage of time –

 The passing of time is often to blame for decreased memory in normal aging.  In other words, if you do not think about particular memories often, there is a greater chance of forgetting them.  If the event was not of huge importance to you, there is also a greater chance of forgetting the details surrounding the event.  This is normal.  The memories that you call upon more often will be retained more easily.  However, if you don't use those memories, you lose them.

Abnormal forgetfulness, on the other hand, is when you cannot recall recent events such as what you ate for breakfast or who visited you that day.

2. Stressful events –

 If you are asked to recall events from a time of stress in your life, it is likely due to normal memory lapses.  During times of stress, your brain has a harder time storing information.

3. Repetition –

If this is the second time that you tell your daughter the same story in two weeks, this is more likely due to normal forgetfulness.  However, if you tell your daughter the same story during a visit lasting thirty minutes, that is not normal.

4. Date –

Normal forgetfulness includes not remembering the exact date, but having a general idea of the time of the month, and the problem solving ability to look the date up on the most recent edition of newspaper you received that morning.  Someone with abnormal memory will not even know what year it is.

5. Self-care abilities –

 If you experience some forgetfulness, but are still able to remember to wash and dress yourself, to eat, to go to the grocery store, to take your medications (you may need to use a pill box as a personal reminder), your memory is likely still within normal ranges for your age.

However, if you do not remember how to do these tasks or even that they need to be done, then that is abnormal.

6. Familiarity –

It is normal to get lost in unfamiliar locations, such as when you are visiting a new area of your city.  However, it is not normal to get lost and not remember familiar locations such as your own neighborhood or who your family members are.

7. Frustration levels –

Someone with normal forgetfulness, is not likely to get angry or upset when reminded about something.  People with abnormal forgetfulness will often display denial, anger, or defensiveness when reminded or when faced with questions that test their memory for dates, places, and more.  They may even accuse you of stealing something that they lost and cannot locate.

Ways to Slow Down Aging of Your Brain

By slowing down aging of your brain, you will be able to retain better memory, as well as other brain control functions in your body.

In what follows, are ways to slow down the aging of your brain:

Do not smoke –

There are so many reasons not to smoke.  Another one to add to the list is the negative effects it has on your brain.  Smoking increases the development of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) in your blood vessels, including those in your brain.  This plaque buildup then reduces the amount of oxygen getting to your brain cells.

Exercise your brain –

As an adult, you have learned how to create routines and methods of remembering things.  However, you can get stuck in a rut of using your mind in the same way that requires little effort.  Your brain is made of a number of different neural pathways, and when you do not change things up for it, your brain is not given the opportunity to exercise itself.

Your brain is amazing in that it can create new neural pathways, and adapt as you stimulate it.  Stimulation of your brain is important in adulthood to build and strengthen these pathways.  Ways to do this include learning new things.  For example, if you do not know how to create a website, but it is of interest to you, this is a good example of one way to challenge your brain.  Another idea for people who play musical instruments is to learn a new song.  If you are not musically-inclined, consider learning a new language.  Basically, anything that will stretch your mind is a great way to exercise it.  You can even take a different route home from work, as this forces you to use your mind and plan which street to take next.

Eat a healthy diet –

Limit saturated fats and trans fats in your diet.  Also be sure to cut down and limit your consumption of sugar.  When you ensure that you are eating healthy foods and not consuming the wrong kinds of calories, you can also keep your weight in check.  Studies have shown that when you reduce the calories you consume, it reduces your brain's aging as you get older.

Be sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables of all colors.  This will help ensure that you are getting antioxidants that fight free radical damage, which is responsible for aging of your cells.  In particular, vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid are important in reducing the chances of developing age-related brain diseases.

Exercise your body –

When you exercise, it increases blood flow throughout your body, including your brain.  Studies have shown that exercise can keep your mind younger.  It can also be helpful to your brain to include exercises that require coordination and concentration such as martial arts, aerobics or dance classes.

Visit your doctor and optometrist regularly –

There are many conditions that can affect your brain's health such as high blood pressure, which can result in mini strokes and cognitive decline.  Both your doctor and optometrist play an instrumental role in detecting the potential for problems early on.

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