Day to day living and the normal mental thought processes we have are very important to us. Our brain controls these thoughts and so much more- thinking, feeling, remembering, working, and playing – even sleeping. When changes to our thoughts, whether it is memory problems, issues in judgement, poor concentration and awareness, or impaired abstract thinking, we should take notice. Most people have attributed this to ‘growing old’ but it is not always the case; as many people who live into their 90’s age well, without loss of mental capacities.
The word ‘dementia’ is a broad term that applies to these things in association with disease or age. Certain factors and medical conditions can contribute to a change in memory function. Early diagnosis of these is a patient’s best weapon and is of vital importance. If left unchecked and undiagnosed, these conditions can cause irreversible damage. The following is a list of factors to consider when assessing memory loss or poor cognition.
Everyone experiences a certain amount of stress, and how people cope with it is extremely important. Major life stress and/or prolonged stress can impair memory function and contribute to memory loss. Stress management is crucial because chronic, unbalanced stress causes elevation of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol has a toxic effect on the memory center of the brain and can cause memory loss.
At least six hours of sleep each night are essential for memory to perform at its peak. Regular sleep habits also make you less forgetful.
It is known that alcohol abuse results in memory loss and possibly dementia. Initially, alcoholics develop short-term memory loss followed by amnesia, which results in the loss of long-term memory. Although each individual has a different threshold for alcohol tolerance, general guidelines identify “moderate” drinking as no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 is essential for optimal brain function. A lack of this vitamin actually can cause permanent damage to brain cells. If you drink or smoke, you are at an even greater risk of having vitamin deficiencies (smoking and drinking leach nutrients from the body). Failure to treat this condition leads to worsening memory loss and progressive nerve damage.
Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs can affect memory function, as can certain drug interactions. Certain classes of drugs are known to affect memory and brain function. These include sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications, painkillers, antihistamines (allergy medications) and antidepressants.
Fortunately, memory loss caused by illness or lifestyle choices can be prevented or remedied.
What are the symptoms of age-related cognitive decline?
Age related cognitive decline or impairment is a diagnosis for abnormal mental cognition less severe then dementia for adults over 50. Mild cognitive impairment refers to problems abnormal for one’s age, whatever age that might be. May also be called Age-Associated Memory Impairment (AAMI), Age-Consistent Memory Decline (ARCD), Benign Senescent Forgetfulness (BSF), Cognitive Decline (Age-Related), Forgetfulness (Benign Senescent), or Memory Decline (Age-Consistent).
People with ARCD experience deterioration in memory and learning, attention and concentration, thinking, use of language, and other mental functions. It need not be as significant as even to be noticeable by other individuals. There is a wide range of symptoms from remembering details and the inability to finish tasks to carrying out activities of daily life and self care.