In Your Prime: Aging brains: What’s normal?

Memory loss that can be more problematic—and worthy of professional medical attention.
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Memory loss that can be more problematic—and worthy of professional medical attention.

“I’m having a senior moment!” It is something we may blurt out when we forget why we stopped at the supermarket.

For some, it is a funny mental slip. For others, it sets off a quiet internal alarm for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: “Am I starting to lose my memory?”

Some memory problems are solved by writing a to-do list. Others deserve medical attention.

Everyday forgetfulness is annoying, but not a cause for major concern. This includes occasional mental fogginess about:

  • Where you left your keys.
  • Where you parked in the mega-store lot.
  • The appointment time for a doctor’s visit.
  • The name of someone who used to be your neighbor.
  • The location of a coffee date you set yesterday.

Memory loss that can be more problematic—and worthy of professional medical attention— could include:

  • Forgetting how to do familiar tasks, like unlocking a door, writing a check or finding the bank.
  • Forgetting the name of someone near and dear.
  • Not being able to learn new things.
  • Asking the same questions over and over again.
  • Becoming confused about time, people or places.
  • Getting lost in places you know well.

“If memory issues begin to interfere with the quality of your daily life, you need to be aware of a potentially more serious issue,” explains Dr. Kenneth Pugar, a neurologist at Kettering Health.

“The good news is people can make a difference in preserving memory function,” Pugar said. There is clear evidence that lifestyle modification and certain behaviors can delay the onset or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

Pugar offers the following tips that may reward you with unexpected brain benefits and help your mind to stay sharp:

  • Socialize. This can help improve your mood and memory.
  • Move your body. Blood flow to the brain naturally decreases over time, and the size of the brain actually decreases too. Exercise can help keep your blood circulating, which nourishes your brain.
  • Eat well. Eating more vegetables—especially leafy greens—and less saturated fat may benefit brain health. Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as tuna and salmon, also may help.
  • Challenge your mind. Reading, learning a new skill, taking a class or playing games can stimulate brain cells and the connections between cells.
  • Organize your space. Getting rid of clutter and giving everything—such as keys, glasses, a purse and cellphone—its own place saves time and frustration.

Which is it?

To determine the difference between simple memory loss and a more significant problem, talk to your doctor or visit a neurologist.

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