What Causes Mental Decline?
We've often thought of mental decline as simply a natural occurrence of aging. As we age, we've become used to the "senior moments" that begin to push their way into our lives. Maybe you forget the name of a grandchild or the date of their birthday. Perhaps you went to the store only to forget what you were going to buy. Moments like these aren't necessarily signs of mental decline; age related memory loss isn't a condition to worry much about. Forgetfulness usually increases with age, but is something you can learn to adjust to. For example, keeping a daily to-do list will help keep track of life, and a date book or calendar will keep important information in order. Those in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease may experience memory loss or impairment of a different nature. They may ask the same questions repeatedly, or call one item by another name - a bus instead of a car for example. They may feel something is "off" with them, but can't figure out what, and usually are reluctant to seek help.
What Causes Mental Decline?
Studies have linked the following factors to an increase in cognitive impairment:
- High Blood Pressure
- Excessive Drinking
- Poor Physical Condition
- High Calorie Diet
- High Cholesterol
- A Poor Social Life
- Use Of Acid Blockers
- Use Of Hormone Replacement Therapy After 65
- Sleep Problems
- Brain Function
How Can All These Affect My Memory?
There are a number of theories as to the cause of memory loss. Numerous studies have been conducted, linking memory loss to everything from smoking to long-term use of acid blockers to a poor social life. If we think about the elderly people we know, certainly we can see a trend where, for the most part, the ones who are active physically and socially are much more alert and able-bodied than those who are not active or social. Maybe you have a friend who has joined a ballroom dance class and regularly attends game night at church. This friend is probably much more alert than another who usually stays at home and watches TV. We could then assume the active friend is healthier physically, probably has normal cholesterol levels, doesn't smoke much or at all, and maintains a healthy weight. Probably they have no trouble sleeping at night and do not experience any symptoms of depression. The other friend may be more inclined to stay at home, and is probably prone to depression, weight gain and high cholesterol due to inactivity. You can see how all these factors may be involved in the maintenance of healthy mental function.
Signs of Dementia or Alzheimer's Disease
To contrast normal signs of age related memory loss, here are some signs of a more serious nature:
- Repeatedly asking the same question
- Calling one item by another item's name
- Getting lost in familiar areas
- Not recognizing familiar people
- Inability to exercise judgment
- Misplacing items in odd places - for example, putting a coat in the shower
- Sudden mood or behavior changes
- Not maintaining personal grooming or cleanliness
- Inability to follow directions
Know The Difference
The most important part of aging is to pay attention to your body and your mind. If you feel something is not quite right, be sure to seek help from family members or a doctor. Don't put off seeking help, as early attention goes a long way to reduce further complications. Ask your close family members or friends to tell you or your doctor if you appear to be experiencing mental decline of any sort. Be sure to be open and receptive to what they say, and be open with those around you. Memory loss due to aging is a condition you can learn to adapt to; Alzheimer's or dementia are conditions which need medical help. Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/memory-loss/HQ00094 http://www.webmd.com/brain/tc/dementia-topic-overview http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/causes-memory-loss.htm