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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Barbara Bodzin, LifePath Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive Director

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:

Stay social

People who aren’t socially engaged are at higher risk for memory problems than people who have strong social ties.

Exercise regularly

Exercise protects against dementia by stimulating the brain’s ability to maintain old connections as well as make new ones.

Stop smoking

Smoking heightens the risk of vascular disorders which can cause stroke and constrict arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain.

Manage stress

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.