Why We become Forgetful as We Age

young man writing reminder on fridge note
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Ever forget what day of the week it is, or enter a room without being able to recall your purpose for being there? Forgetfulness is becoming more common as we age, and it can be very frustrating. We also might hope our loved ones don’t take offence when it happens. Why does it happen? Is being forgetful one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia? In most cases, age-related forgetfulness is entirely normal. However, a better understanding of its causes and how to prevent it provides reassurance and can help reverse age-related forgetfulness.

A common misconception is that forgetfulness at an old age means one could be dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s. Though this could be true in some instances, forgetfulness is a normal part of aging. While dementia or Alzheimer’s is disabling, age-related forgetfulness is not. The former is identifiable through an ongoing decline in two or more cognitive abilities such as judgment, language, memory, and abstract thinking. However, researchers have identified the cause of forgetfulness through age and determined why it is so common.

Age-related forgetfulness can result from one’s lifestyle and daily activities. Research shows stress, depression, and poor sleeping habits attribute to memory loss. A recommended ailment to these is daily meditation – taking a few minutes every day to clear one’s mind and focus on breathing. Other catalysts of age-related forgetfulness can be vitamin-deficient diets and substance use. Anti-anxiety and sleeping medications also have been known to play a role in its progression.

As one’s body ages, it also changes; the brain is no exception. Naturally produced hormones and proteins in the brain protect, repair, and stimulate it. As we age, the body makes less, which is detrimental to the brain. Research shows that beyond genetic reasons, the hippocampus, the part of the brain that deals with memories, can deteriorate with age, making it take longer than usual to remember something that once came relatively easy to us.

A decrease in blood flow to the brain is quite common for older people due to a lack of activity and can lead to changes in cognitive skills and memory impairment. Therefore, it is important to continue stimulating the brain as we age. Like a muscle, working out the brain is pertinent for keeping it in or near peak performance. Data suggests that brain-stimulating workouts like completing puzzles, playing cards, listening to music, learning a new skill, and even dancing are highly effective ways to stay mentally sharp while aging.

If you or a loved one has been forgetful as of late, I hope this will provide some reassurance and explanation for what is going on and how to improve it. If memory lapses often concern you or a family member, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Until next time, stay safe, and keep the faith.

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