Neurology experts and specialists in geriatric medicine inform us that as you age, expect to develop some memory lapses. You might forget where you put your car keys or all items you had for dinner the day or two before, but that doesn’t mean you are on your way to Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. The experts have documented that, in healthy people, everyone develops subtle declines in memory, speed of thinking and concentration starting as early as age 30. Usually the decline occurs so gradually that it goes unnoticed until you are in your 60s or 70s. By that time, we call them “senior moments.” Some of this may be related to busy lifestyles which prevent one from storing information properly for later recall. If one doesn’t routinely recall or retrieve a piece of information, you are more likely to forget it as time passes. For example, phone numbers or birth dates and even names of people.
According to Ronan Factora, M.D. from the Cleveland Clinic Center for Geriatric Medicine, problems with word associations or working memory, such as forgetting the next step in a project one is trying to complete, but eventually recalling the information, is typical of normal cognitive aging. However, if memory problems begin to affect your daily life and others are noticing them and having to tell you about them, it may warrant evaluation to see if something else is going on. Your physician may want to rule out certain medical conditions that can cause dementia-like symptoms. These may include side effects of medication one is taking, vitamin B12 deficiency, thyroid disorders, hearing difficulty, chronic pain, anxiety, sleep apnea, etc. The doctor may do blood tests and/or cognitive testing to measure your risk status. A recent study published in the JAMA Neurology looked at over 1200 healthy people between the ages of 30 and 90 and found that, with time, overall memory worsened and that men generally had poorer memory and a smaller specific area of the brain, the hippocampus. This does not mean that men are doomed to dementia. There are certain interventions that everyone can take to optimize brain wellness. Dr. Factora says, “You’re never too old to derive benefit from these interventions.”
What can you do? Just as you work-out to preserve your muscles and maintain your physique, you can do this to maintain the brain. Here are a few recommendations: 1) Optimize your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and other heart Optimize risk factors to maintain cardiovascular health. 2) Eat a heart healthy diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat meats, olive oil. 3) Keep physically active, because regular exercise (movement) may improve cognitive function. 4) Stay socially engaged. Take part in activities that allow interaction with other people, including at church. 5) Reading and studying the Word of God and meditating on it regularly. 6) Participate in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading books, crossword puzzles, playing a musical instrument, participating in senior learning classes at nearby schools, colleges and universities. Do these things to help protect your brain.
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
– John W. Downing, Jr., M.D.