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When to Worry About Our Forgetfulness

Oct 25, 2021

When to Worry About Our Forgetfulness


I’ll be the first to admit, there are times I go out to the garage and don’t remember why I went out there. I knew it was to grab something, but I don’t remember what it was. Later, when I’m back in the house, I easily remember I meant to grab the spare keys I left on the garage shelf.

Are the momentary challenges we all seem to experience a sign of something bigger going on? Are we slowly losing our ability to handle everyday tasks? Is the dreaded dysfunction of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease just around the corner for us?

These are important questions to ask ourselves. Worldwide there are 47.5 million people with dementia, which describes a group of symptoms that affect cognitive tasks like memory and reasoning. Whether it involves our own memory difficulties or those of a loved one, how do we determine if there is something to be concerned with?

We have all had moments when it was hard to recall some detail like someone’s name when we wanted it, only to have it come to us later. However, given enough time we should be able to remember and do mentally all the things we used to be able to do even as we get older. Here are a few examples that are nothing to worry about:

  • Being absent-minded - Forgetting for a moment why we went into a room or misplacing items (like car keys) in a common place is a sign that our brain didn’t secure the details, likely because we were distracted.
  • Inaccurate memories - Memories are subject to suggestibility, meaning that something we learn after creating a memory can change how we recall it. If this happens only occasionally, then this is common and nothing to be concerned with.
  • Forgetting facts over time - This is also called “transience.” Researchers speculate it may be the brain’s way of making room for new memories. Quite often, if we keep thinking about the item we are not remembering, it will come to us later in the day.
  • Not being able to retrieve a memory in the moment - This is the feeling of a memory or detail on the tip of our tongue. Also called “blocking,” there may be a stronger memory that gets in the way. When we relax usually the memory comes back to us.

On the other hand, there are memory-related problems that can be cause for concern. Just a couple of examples that can be symptoms of memory problems are:

  • Memory problems that impair daily living - Problems such as forgetting things we just learned, needing to have things repeated frequently, repeating oneself frequently, or requiring memory aides and notes to remember simple tasks when we never had to before.
  • Misplacing objects in unusual places - Frequently being unable to find an object after retracing our steps or finding them in an unusual spot (such as finding clean clothes left sitting on the kitchen counter).
  • Getting lost in familiar places - Not being able to find our way through our favorite park, getting lost on our way to work, or forgetting how we got somewhere.

If some of these signs start to be noticed, consult with a qualified Doctor at the earliest possible time. The sooner memory problems are diagnosed the better the prognosis.

Fortunately, there are many pro-active ways to help prevent, or at least slow down, the onset of memory problems which could lead to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. A few of these positive changes are:

  1. Healthy eating including fish, chicken, raw nuts and green leafy vegetables. Avoiding processed foods and foods that are high in sugar and fat.
  2. Exercise, any movements such as walking, riding a bike or playing with grandchildren.
  3. Keep the mind busy, stimulate mental activity with reading, playing games, working crossword puzzles or sudoku puzzles.
  4. Keeping up a social life, form friendships and schedule activities that involve interacting with others. Social isolation can lead to stress and depression. Stay involved.

Now, where did I leave my keys? Be Blessed.

Category: Dr. Sterling