Forgetfulness and Age-Associated Memory Impairment

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Forgetfulness and Age-Associated Memory Impairment

Memory Loss
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Forgetfulness and Age-Associated Memory Impairment
Forgetfulness and Age-Associated Memory Impairment
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It's quite normal to forget things occasionally. And as people grow older, they become more forgetful.
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2010-02-10
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InteliHealth/Harvard Medical Content
2012-08-17

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Forgetfulness and Age-Associated Memory Impairment

 

Forgetfulness
 
It's quite normal to forget things occasionally. And as people grow older, they become more forgetful. Most people have forgotten the name of a person whose face is recognizable, have forgotten to switch the lights off or have turned back to make sure they turned off the stove or locked the door. All of this is a normal part of growing older. You may not even remember when this change began; it just creeps up on you as you age.
 
The question is, how much is too much to forget? Although scientists do not fully know the answer to this question, they have found some important differences between normal memory loss and memory loss that occurs with more serious conditions, such as dementia.

 

Age-Associated Memory Impairment
 
At the moment, researchers are studying senior citizens who suffer from mild memory loss that is greater than their peers. This condition is known as age-associated memory impairment or mild cognitive impairment.
 
It is important to note that memory loss does not always indicate dementia. Research is under way to determine if and when age-associated memory impairment will eventually develop into dementia.
 
Age-associated memory impairment generally affects people who are older than 50. It develops gradually. The most common manifestations are difficulty remembering names, misplacement of objects, difficulty remembering a list of multiple items and problems with tasks that require multiple actions. There also may be difficulty remembering telephone numbers and zip codes. If the individual is distracted in some way, the problem is compounded, making it even harder to remember things — such as what was needed to buy or what the person meant to do.
 
What is the difference between age-associated memory impairment and dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease?
 
Activity
Age-associated memory impairment
Alzheimer's disease
Forgets
Parts of an experience
Whole experience
Remembers later
Often
Rarely
Follows written or spoken instructions
Usually able
Gradually unable
Is able to use notes
Usually able
Gradually unable
Is able to care for self
Usually able
Gradually unable
Adapted from Gwyther LP: Care of Alzheimer's Patients: A Manual for Nursing Home Staff. Chicago: Alzheimer's Association and American Health Care Association; 1985.
 
Researchers do not yet know the exact cause of age-associated memory impairment. However, there are things that contribute to memory change and/or loss.
 
Is age-associated memory impairment a progressive condition?
 
Usually not. Unlike Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, age-associated memory impairment is not a progressive condition and causes minimal or no disability. However, some of the drugs used to treat Alzheimer's disease are now being looked at for treating age-associated memory impairment.
 
A few general rules are helpful if you are diagnosed with age-associated memory impairment:
  • Use alcohol in moderation.
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Keep your blood pressure under good control.
  • Also make sure that none of the drugs you take contributes to your memory loss; your health-care provider or pharmacist will be able to advise you.

 

 

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Last updated August 05, 2013


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