- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
- Published: 23 August 2018
Dementia awareness: You can make a difference
We've all misplaced keys, blanked on someone’s name, or forgotten a phone number. When we’re young we tend not to pay much mind to these lapses, but as we grow older sometimes we worry about what they mean. While it’s true certain brain changes are inevitable, major memory problems are not one of them. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between normal age-related forgetfulness and symptoms which may indicate a developing cognitive problem.
The following chart can help make that distinction:
|Normal age-related memory changes||Symptoms that may indicate dementia|
|Ability to function independently and pursue normal activities despite occasional memory lapses||Difficulty performing simple tasks (paying bills, dressing appropriately, washing up)|
|Able to recall and describe incidents of forgetfulness||Unable to recall or describe instances where memory loss caused problems|
|Need to pause to remember directions but doesn’t get lost in familiar places||Gets lost or disoriented in familiar places, unable to follow directions|
|Occasional difficulty finding the right word but no trouble holding a conversation||Words are frequently forgotten or misused, repetition of phrases or stories in single conversation|
|Judgment and decision-making ability intact||Trouble making decisions, may demonstrate poor judgment or behave in socially inappropriate ways|
The brain is capable of producing new brain cells at any age, so significant memory loss is not an inevitable result of aging. Similar to muscle strength, you have to use it or lose it. Your lifestyle and daily activities have a huge impact on the health of your brain.
Here are ways to improve cognitive skills:
People who aren’t socially engaged are at higher risk for memory problems than people who have strong social ties.
Exercise protects against dementia by stimulating the brain’s ability to maintain old connections as well as make new ones.
Smoking heightens the risk of vascular disorders which can cause stroke and constrict arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, damages the brain over time and can lead to memory problems. Even before that happens, stress or anxiety can cause memory difficulties in the moment.
Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation reduces the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus and causes problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making.
Watch what you eat
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink green tea as these foods contain antioxidants, which can keep your brain cells from “rusting.” Foods rich in omega-3 fats (such as salmon, tuna, trout, walnuts, and flaxseed) are particularly good for your brain and memory.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month
Alzheimer’s Disease International aims to raise awareness and challenge stigma surrounding dementia. Please contact us to speak to a resource specialist to speak to a resource specialist who can provide dementia-related information and resources.