The Occasional Memory Lapse

It’s not unusual for anyone to experience memory lapses. It is not always a sign of aging or losing our memory. As a matter of fact, the majority of the time it’s nothing to worry about. As we get older, and experience lapses more often, we begin to worry that we may be at the beginning of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, memory is “the mental capacity or faculty of retaining or recalling facts, events, impressions or previous experiences.”   Scientist look at the definition of memory by these six different areas:

  • Short-Term Memory—remembering something for a brief period of time, such as the price of an item until you pay for it
  • Recent Memory —information you just learned, or day-to-day activity
  • Sensory Memory — Recalling what you see, smell, taste, touch and hear
  • Long-Term Memory — distant memories and experiences
  • Declarative Memory — basic knowledge skills, like vocabulary words and facts
  • Procedural Memory — motor skills, chewing, walking or riding a bicycle.

Disregarding selective hearing (like when your spouse is talking to you) or information overload (when you are juggling too many projects at one time), most people experience the occasional “brain freeze”.   You notice that it starts to become more noticeable, and even more frightening, when you get to be around 50. Some people may feel the onslaught begin as early as 30, and doctors report that 80% of the questions they receive from patients over 30 are concerning memory problems.

Forgetting little things do not always indicate a decline in memory. A doctor once told a friend who was worried about this problem that “your brain is just discarding information that you don’t need to make room for things you learning, kind of like the trash bin in your computer.” In other words, when your memory gets too full you need to dump things that are slowing it down. Now I don’t know if that’s a great analogy, but it worked for my friend. Scientists call this “pruning”, which is much the same as what you do with your bushes to take out the dead or weak branches to strengthen the other parts.

Outside influences have an effect on our memory. Included are hormonal imbalance (like women in menopause), high blood pressure, low thyroid, diabetes, too much alcohol consumption, poor diet, lack of sleep, or medications that you are taking.

From 1% – 26% of Americans aged 65 or older are impacted by serious memory decline, also known as mild cognitive impairment. This is a transitional phase in aging, and although momentary lapses can become more frequent, it does not impair judgment.

Studies have suggested that approximately 10% of those with a specific form of memory-related MCI go on to develop some form of dementia, Alzheimer’s (AD) being the most common. It is believed that less than 10% of people 65 and over will actually develop full-blown AD, and 47% of those over 85 probably can.

The good new is, studies have shown that the use of memory training and memory techniques can help to strengthen the brain cells, and even prolong or reverse the loss of memory, or total incapacitation from dementia.

From the desk of Ron White, memory speaker

Memory Training


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