Ageing and Memory Loss: When to be concerned

Memory Problems

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Ageing and Memory Loss: When to be concerned

Memory can be explained as the process of reproducing what has been retained or learned. Memories help us maintain a link with friends and family. Most of us might notice understated changes in our memory as we age. These changes are normal.

Sometimes we observe the changes much faster or sooner than expected. Though unnoticed at times, these changes can be disturbing to us or others. There could be various factors that could affect memory or worsen normal age-related changes. Side-effects due to medication, health problems- existing or developing, etc. Problems like heart disease, thyroid, head injury, blood clots, brain tumor, depression, anxiety, or vitamin deficiency can affect our memory. In these cases, treating the condition can help improve our memory.

What’s Normal?

Having a slight difficulty or a delay in recalling dates, names, or events, and simple forgetfulness could be part of the normal aging process. The memory includes multiple processes such as learning information, recalling information, recognizing information, etc. Forgetfulness would include a disruption in these processes. Different types of memory can also be affected differently due to aging.

Preserved Memory functions include remote memory, or the ability to recall something long past, procedural memory, or the ability to perform a task, and semantic, or general knowledge. Declining functions would include learning something new, and recalling newer information.

Normal aging might include the following cognitive changes:

  • Language may be slightly affected due to age whereas language comprehension may be preserved.
  • Verbal fluency may be affected. Persons might find it slightly difficult to remember names or find words during a conversation.
  • Verbal intelligence remains intact; however, information is processed slower with age.
  • Planning and abstract thinking may remain normal for everyday functions but may slow down during multi-tasking.
  • Cognitive processing and reaction time may slow down.

What is Not Considered a Normal Part of Ageing?

Any memory-related problem that interferes with daily functioning is not considered normal. For example, forgetting where one has kept glasses is normal. However, forgetting what the glasses are used for or where they are worn is not considered a normal memory problem. According to researchers, problems associated with Mild Cognitive Impairment could lead to dementia in some cases. Some examples of memory changes in MCI and dementia are given below.

Mild Cognitive Impairment:

  • Repeating the same questions or stories, forgetting recent events, forgetting names of close friends or family, misplacing things often, forgetting conversations.
  • Difficulty in understanding information: spoken or written.
  • Difficulty in doing tasks like paying bills, cleaning, driving, taking medicines, however, the person may be able to do them independently.
  • Losing focus, getting distracted easily, the requirement of written reminders to complete tasks.


Dementia will show many symptoms of MCI, but as it progresses, will show added symptoms.

  • Inability to perform tasks like paying bills, driving, and shopping.
  • Loss of awareness of memory impairment.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Poor ability to solve problems or think rationally.
  • Impairment in memory, language, and need of assistance to perform tasks.

How to Preserve Memory?

Though no direct link has been found or proven between the below-mentioned steps and good memory, these recommendations do go a long way in maintaining general good health.

  • We should maintain good cholesterol levels, blood glucose, and blood pressure.
  • We should cut down on excess drinking and smoking.
  • We should maintain a healthy diet and appropriate weight.
  • We should reduce stress and get enough sleep.
  • We should exercise our bodies as well as the brain.
  • We should stay active socially, remain positive, and be happy.

Keeping ourselves healthy in body and mind will go a long way in helping us as we age.