Is It Just Normal Aging? (Or Am I Losing My Mind?) Two simple ways to tell

by | Sep 20, 2014 | Aging gracefully, Brain Health | 0 comments

Throughout your life, you experience an occasional memory lapse or momentary brain confusion. Then, as you age, these moments can become more frequent. And more anxiety-provoking.

Normal, healthy aging is challenging enough to cope with. But when memory problems become more frequent, are they an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s or another variety of dementia?

Here are two simple ways to assess yourself.


Reconstructive vs. Recollective Memory

Can’t remember a word? Forget someone’s name? These are examples of loss of “recollective memory” – the ability to summon an exact word (or name) divorced from its context.

This type of memory loss is considered a normal component of healthy aging.

On the other hand, there’s also “reconstructive memory”, which refers to the ability to piece together clues, infer meaning and grasp context. Examples include placing events into a logical sequence, remembering the relationship between various family members, and generally connecting the dots between ideas.

Someone with this more complex type of memory decline might need further testing by a neurologist or geriatric specialist.

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Shopping & Balancing Your Checkbook

With an intact brain, you can easily manage the basic activities of daily living, such as driving, food preparation, dressing, etc. But if your brain has started to go south for the winter, even these simple tasks can become a challenge.

In fact, researchers have shown that the ability to perform two specific tasks – shopping and balancing a checkbook – correlates extremely well with your overall cognitive function. If you can perform these two jobs with reasonable proficiency, your brain is unlikely to be experiencing medically-relevant cognitive impairment.

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