Have you had a “senior moment” lately? Forgot where you left your car keys, or just can’t recall someone’s name?
It’s normal to have some memory loss and short-term forgetfulness as we age, says Jacqueline Chan, M.D., Ph.D., FAAN, a neurologist at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation's Tracy Care Center and Stockton Medical Plaza.
“Our brains start to age when we are in our late 20s,” she says. “As we get older, we lose brain cells, and the body produces less of the chemicals that help the brain to function well. This all affects how we store and retrieve information.”
Other factors that can add to a deteriorating memory include stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, a poor diet, medical conditions, medications, and relying too much on technology.
In addition to those annoying moments of forgetfulness, signs of a normal aging brain may include a less efficient working memory. For example, you may have trouble recalling a phone number you just heard, taking more time to process information or complete tasks, finding it harder to multitask, and a diminished ability to learn.
How do you know what’s normal and what’s not?
Normal forgetfulness doesn’t significantly impact your daily life or ability to function, Dr. Chan explains. In contrast, Alzheimer’s disease, a severe and progressive brain disease, causes profound changes that disrupt daily living, such as confusion about time or place, persistent and progressive loss of memory for recent events, difficulty with words, withdrawal from social life, and personality and behavior changes.
The good news: If you’re having normal memory loss, there are things you can do to stay mentally sharp as you age.