If your inability to remember information is interfering with your ability to manage daily life, there are some simple steps you can take to better understand the circumstances of the problem.
• Be attuned to changes in cognitive abilities – just as you might notice changes in your skin or energy level.
• Keep a log of what you’ve forgotten and when it occurred. By thinking about what else was happening at the times we’ve experienced confusion or forgetfulness, we often discover that it was at a stressful or distracting time. Memory loss can be more prevalent when our normal rhythms are disturbed.
• Don’t rush to diagnose yourself. If your memory loss and your concerns continue, talk with a physician and get an assessment.
“Memory loss or cognitive decline that negatively impacts your quality of life is not normal,” says Kathy O’Brien, the Alzheimer’s Association’s senior vice president for program and community services. “There are some conditions, however, that mimic Alzheimer’s that are very treatable,” she notes. “Too often, people endure these conditions, including depression, rather than discover that there are remedies that can be life changing.”
Dr. Sanford Auerbach, an associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, concurs. “The incidence of Alzheimer’s among people at mid life is very low. The average 50- and 60-year-old patient who comes to my office with concerns about memory loss is often dealing with depression or anxiety, or occasionally, another medical problem. And these can often be managed.”
Researchers have made great strides in their quest to understand how aging impacts the brain. Each breakthrough, however, stimulates more questions.
Not having all the hows and whys answered does not deter Dr. Auerbach from giving his patients this advice: “A good diet, exercise and mental stimulation are each a key component to a healthy life. We may not know fully how they impact cognition, but there’s enough evidence to suggest that we should all incorporate them into our lifestyle.”
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