This article is copied with permission from Pam Sissons. You can read more of her writings at the links below.
Does memory loss and forgetfulness have to be part of your life after turning fifty? Noticing changes in your memory function as you age is completely normal!
Approaching midlife often brings challenges of many kinds – including normal memory loss or forgetfulness. If and when those incidents of memory loss seem to be happening more frequently, they can be frightening.“Where the heck did I put the car keys?” “What was the name of that movie we just saw?” “What did I come in here for?”
Changes in memory function can begin in your 40s or 50s and come slowly or gradually at first. The fact is that some memory loss, forgetfulness, or "fuzzy brain" is perfectly normal after turning fifty, and probably does not signal the onset of a debilitating memory disorder or dementia such as Alzheimer's.
About Memory Function
There are many types of memory that deal with everything from remembering what the word "spoon" means, to being able to recall a neighbor's phone number. The ability to drive a car or put on a pair of pants becomes an inherent part of you, as opposed to remembering computer passwords at will, which may be information that continues to elude you in the most frustrating of ways!
Two Basic Forms of Memory
Short term memory is also referred to as working memory. With a duration of probably less than a minute, short term memory is what allows you to remember a phone number long enough to dial it, or remember what was read in the first half of a sentence.
The many types of long term memory include everything else, from your amazing ability to recite the capitals of all 50 states, to how to write your name, and where you parked your car at the mall yesterday.
Memory is complicated. The amount of information that is stored in your brain is incredible, from the time you were an infant until today – everything you have heard or felt, learned or experienced; the amount is mind-boggling. The neurotransmitters that are the workhorse of the brain are aging as well: a normal process that actually begins in your 20s, but doesn’t usually become apparent until your 40s.
Forgetfulness is Not a Memory Disorder
The fact is that it simply takes a little longer to process as you age. As many seniors are well aware, the ability to learn new skills is still alive and well! However, you can still process new information and continually hone those skills, taking classes, starting new career ventures...whatever!
So, what is the benchmark for aging and normal memory loss? You may find yourself forgetting names, appointments, where you put something, or not be able to remember who told you what during a conversation. Although annoying and frustrating in turn, these incidents don’t imply anything more important than the happy fact that you've made it this far!
Coping with Memory Loss and Forgetfulness
Most individuals turning fifty or older may find themselves continually looking for the car keys or the dog leash. Here's a few tips for coping with the change:
Keep a list: this is one of the very best ways to remind yourself of appointments, tasks you want to accomplish, even writing down someone's name on a piece of paper can help you recall it next time you see him.
Consistency: Put your car keys in the same place every single time. Keep your list in the exact same place at all times – somewhere that you have easy access to it.
Exercise your memory: Yep, there's evidence that it may be a case of "use it or lose it"! Crossword puzzles, brain teasers, memory games...and don't forget a healthy diet!
Aging and changes in memory function are normal and to be expected with age. Discuss any questions about your ability to recall information on a regular basis, or whether you may be dealing with a memory disorder or the onset of Alzheimer's with your physician.
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