Worried About Your Memory? 5 Signs It's Not Serious
How to tell when memory trouble is "normal" (and probably not a disorder like Alzheimer's)
It's natural to feel a little uneasy when you forget something, knowing that Alzheimer's disease now afflicts 5.3 million Americans, many still in their 40s and 50s. It's scary, sure. But many bouts of memory loss are simply the result of much more benign situations.
How can you tell the difference? The following five situations point toward normal, age-related memory loss. The best rule of thumb: "If you're concerned, see a specialist," says psychiatrist Gary Small, director of the UCLA Center on Aging and author of several books about memory and cognition, including The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head. An evaluation can rule out certain potential causes and often identify reversible ones. (See also Worried About Memory Loss? 5 Signs It's Serious.)
It's probably not serious if: Lapses don't interfere with everyday life.
Everybody forgets stuff. The movie title on the tip of your tongue. The name of the dad on the soccer field. The occasional appointment or lunch date. What the heck you just came in the room to get.
Slowed recall of information from time to time is normal, caused by the naturally aging brain and other lifestyle factors (like trying to cram too many tasks into one day). What's not normal: When memory impairment interferes with your ability to get through the day. Everyday activities tend to rely on many rote steps and require you to remember basic sequences -- which the healthy brain isn't apt to forget.
So it's a reassuring sign if, despite occasional lapses, you can still work, prepare meals, dress yourself, manage your checkbook, pursue hobbies, and read 900-page novels or pursue your other usual hobbies as well as ever without needing help.