Is Memory Decline Inevitable in Older Age? (Read This First!)
Many people think that memory loss is an inevitable condition with old age. However, it does not always have to be like that. Older people may have trouble remembering trivial details, but considerable memory loss usually indicates a serious underlying condition and can be prevented.
Almost 6.2 million seniors aged 65 or above have Alzheimer’s disease, a condition characterized by significant memory loss. And up to 40% of these cases can be prevented or delayed with the right preventive exercises.
You are not alone if you have been dealing with bouts of forgetfulness lately. Many people tend to forget where they put their glasses or whether they took their medicine or not when they come to a certain age.
But thorough knowledge about the subject may help you delay or prevent the phenomenon. Also, distinguishing the normal and abnormal signs of memory loss is crucial to preserving your health for longer. And that is what this article is all about, so keep reading.
Memory and aging
Several scientific studies have discussed the relationship between memory and age. Researchers have found several reasons why our memories deteriorate as we age.
Out of the many researched reasons for age-related memory issues, the most widely accepted are:
- Weakening hippocampus: The hippocampus is the part of our brain that stores all our memory-related data. As with our muscles, the hippocampus starts to deteriorate with age, and so do our memories.
- Hampered neural growth: With age, our brain’s ability to regenerate slows down. And that is why we cannot form as many new neural connections as we did when we were young.
- Decreased blood flow: Older people have reduced blood supply to their brains. This negatively affects their ability to memorize things.
At what age does memory start to decline?
Most people believe that signs of age-related memory loss appear as early as 60. However, modern research shows that these signs may occur even earlier under different circumstances and settings.
Studies have proved that early symptoms of dementia can occur at 40 or 45 years of age. But thankfully, people suffering from memory loss at a young age are insignificant in number.
It is vital to note that findings also conclude that a healthy lifestyle and preventive measures for stroke and heart attack can also prevent the occurrence of early age dementia.
What is normal memory decline?
Forgetting where you put your keys or struggling to remember someone’s name in several attempts happens to many people. These events start occurring more frequently with age. However, you can consider them normal memory decline since it is usually harmless.
Usually, older people can have frequent episodes of forgetfulness. These may include several memory processes such as retaining new information, recalling old events, and recognizing current happenings.
All these memory disruptions can happen to any elderly, and their mild versions usually do not require medical intervention.
What memory problems can appear as part of normal aging?
Declining hippocampus, diminished supply of proteins and hormones responsible for brain growth, and decreased blood flow to the brain can affect several mental functions adversely. All these factors contribute to several memory problems that are a part of the normal aging process.
Here are a few brain functions that age impacts negatively:
Learning new things
Older people usually have trouble learning a new skill or retaining further information. For instance, you may start taking longer than usual to remember a passage of text when you could easily do it in minutes when you were younger.
Similarly, with age, you can have difficulty remembering the names of people you just met.
Recalling current memories
While older memories are easier to recall, older adults have trouble remembering near past events. Aged people often repeat the same questions, tell the same stories, forget their appointments, and cannot recall a conversation they just had.
We often deal with difficulty while coming up with a common word. It happens more frequently with age when our brain starts having trouble with language-related information. You may take longer to get a word even if you have used it often all your life.
While most parts of language comprehension remain unchanged, we may experience difficulty remembering new words and how they are used in a sentence.
Old age usually takes a toll on our problem-solving skills because our brain cannot process information and relay it correctly. Hence, we may find ourselves stuck in a difficult situation more often than we used to.
Dealing with multiple tasks simultaneously requires advanced mental skills and intelligence. With our brain cells deteriorating with age, we often find ourselves at a loss while dealing with more than one task at a time.
Slow reaction time
Our brain requires more and more time with age to grasp a situation, process its data, make an appropriate judgment, and trigger an appropriate response. As we grow older, we tend to take longer to hit the buzzer.
Shorter attention span
With age, our ability to focus on a given task becomes weaker. We may need to take notes and make a to-do list to accomplish our daily goals without getting distracted.
Does memory power decline with age?
Subtle changes in memory can be expected with age, for instance, normal forgetfulness. However, if these changes affect your day-to-day routine, it may be time to see a doctor to rule out dementia.
People often believe that memory loss is a normal part of old age. It is valid to some extent only. When your memory deficit starts to impede your daily tasks, there is a high risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Here are a few signs of dementia you should watch out for:
- Forgetting how to do simple chores that you have done many times before. For example, paying a bill, doing the laundry, or choosing a dress.
- Unable to recall specific events in life.
- Disorientation in familiar places or inability to follow directions.
- Repeating the same sentence or story several times.
- Misusing, forgetting, and jumbling up common words.
Can memory be preserved during the aging process?
Adopting a healthy lifestyle and living a low-stress life can delay or prevent common signs of memory loss during old age.
Our mental function significantly depends on our lifestyle and life choices. Many factors can provoke early or severe memory loss. These are chronic depression, medications, vitamin B12 deficiency, a malfunctioning thyroid, alcohol abuse, and dehydration.
Similarly, there are numerous ways to preserve memory during the aging process.
Smoking is a common cause of vascular problems such as stroke that can impede the blood flow to your brain. Diminished blood supply is one of the primary culprits for deteriorating memory.
Eat a healthy diet
Antioxidants lower the risk of dementia. Consider including foods with antioxidants in your diet.
Stress is a significant contributor to causing age-related memory loss. The hormone cortisol is produced during stressful situations and causes considerable damage to our brains. Follow stress-management techniques to reduce anxiety or seek help if matters escalate.
Follow a regular sleep pattern
Sufficient sleep rests our brain to wake up energized the next day. A proper routine is essential for a restful sleep at night. Stick to your schedule and ensure you get enough sleep every night.
Physical exercise is essential for mental health. Indulge in yoga, meditation, aerobic activities, such as swimming, cycling, running, etc., strength training, cardio, stretching, etc., are also excellent for maintaining a fit body.
Interact with other people
Socially active people are less prone to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and stress. Thus they have lesser chances of suffering from signs of memory loss or dementia.
Try being grateful for your circumstances and always have a positive outlook. It can lead to a happy life and less risk of constant stress and anxiety.
Exercise your brain as well
Mind games are an excellent way of combating memory loss at any age. You can try several mental exercises and choose the one you enjoy the most. The happier you are playing a game, the better effects it will have on your brain.
Here are a few brain games that you can try:
- Strategy games, including chess, ludo, sudoku, monopoly, and card games.
- Word games such as scrabble, crosswords, etc.
- Learning a new skill such as playing an instrument, cooking, driving, a new game, or even a new language.
- Trying to upskill what you have previously learned, for instance, a language or a sport.
- Reading a new book, magazine, or newspaper that challenges you.
- Trying a new hobby such as gardening, knitting, or writing.
Here’s an article about memorization as an exercise to boost memory.
Many people confuse dementia with age-related normal forgetfulness. While it is normal for someone to forget what they ate for lunch, the inability to figure out how to use a spoon and a fork is problematic and requires immediate medical intervention.
Typical age-related memory problems may include forgetting current events, difficulty remembering a new acquaintance’s name, or taking a few attempts to recall a common word.
Although these are common with almost everyone entering the fourth or fifth decade of their lives, you can delay or even prevent memory loss by adopting a healthy lifestyle and indulging in brain exercises.
Alternatively, you can take Iris Reading’s memory maximizing course as an investment for your future because sound mental health is a blessing during old age. So why not take a course and start working on it now!