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Senior moment or dementia?

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DALLAS (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than 35.6 million people worldwide have some form of dementia. It's a frightening condition that can rob you of your most precious memories.

However, just because you have memory trouble doesn't mean you have dementia.

Where did you put your keys? When did you say you'd meet? What's that person's name? Jennifer Alexander, 66 years old, was asking herself these kinds of questions often.

Like many 60-somethings, Alexander said her memory isn't what it used to be. But is it something to worry about?

"We know that some changes in memory are problematic and some are not," Audette Rackley, MS, CCC/SLP, Clinical Researcher, Center for BrainHealth, The University of Texas at Dallas, told Ivanhoe.

Experts say you shouldn't worry about absent-mindedness. That is not paying close enough attention to what you're doing, like occasionally misplacing glasses or keys.

"Sometimes, what concerns me about memory is really just a lack of attention," Rackley explained.

Also, don't worry about transience, which is forgetting facts over time. This actually clears the way for new memories.

Also, don't fret over misattribution. That's when you recall only part of something once in a while. Blocking, or the temporary inability to retrieve a memory, is no biggie either.  
"It's not that the information is not there, it just takes a little longer to retrieve it," Jennifer Zientz, MS, CCC/SLP, Head of Clinical Services, Center for BrainHealth, The University of Texas at Dallas, told Ivanhoe.

However, you should worry if memory problems continuously disrupt your daily life, if your family is more concerned than you, if you can't carry on a conversation, or if you are constantly withdrawing from social situations. Losing track of dates and time are also signs of early Alzheimer's.  

Alexander was able to improve her memory with some simple brain exercises. "I feel that I'm paying more attention at a deeper level," Alexander said.

10 Signs of Alzheimer's

The older you get, the more likely you worry about memory problems, and the more you worry about them, the more you'll notice each and every slip-up.

Odds are you forgot a lot of things when you were in your teens or twenties, but you never paid any attention to those lapses.

Forgetting where you parked or where you put your keys is most often completely normal, it's known as "everyday forgetting." While most of us experience everyday forgetting quite often, a few people have a serious problem with memory.

How do you tell the difference between normal forgetting and a more serious problem that causes dementia? Warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems with numbers
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality  

If you notice these symptoms, please see your doctor. While current medications cannot stop the damage Alzheimer's causes to brain cells, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain's nerve cells.

Early detection will help you get the maximum benefit from available treatments.

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