What is normal and when to intervene
Older adults often worry about their thinking abilities
Older adults often worry about their thinking abilities. They may occasionally miss a bill payment or forget an appointment or a familiar person's name. Mild forgetfulness is a normal part of aging and does not indicate brain dysfunction. This benign forgetfulness of aging does not affect daily activities like cooking, driving, finding way home or using phone.
Signs that can suggest dementia
However, in a minority of elderly population forgetfulness and thinking ability may be severe enough to impair activities of daily living. At the stage, possibility of dementia needs to be considered and a neurologist opinion has to be sought. Confusion about time or place, getting lost in familiar places, asking the same questions again and again, having trouble following a recipe or directions and poor self-care are some of the features that can suggest a possibility of dementia. These symptoms can gradually progress which makes the person completely dependent on a caregiver to do even simple activities like bathing, eating or changing clothes.
How to prevent memory loss with aging
There are several measures which can maintain the brain health in aged and prevent development of significant memory impairment or dementia. Good diet, regular physical activity, staying mental active and maintaining emotional connections are found to be important for a good brain health.
• A diet rich in antioxidants can improve brain health. Fresh fruits, nuts, berries, beans, olive oil, dairy products, eggs and fish are all part of an ideal diet. Limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding high energy foods and cessation of smoking are key.
• Risk of Dementia is reduced in those who exercised regularly as opposed to those people who did not exercise on a routine basis. Benefits of exercise are seen even when it was initiated later in life. Men who walk 3 to 4 kilometres a day are less likely to develop dementia.
• Staying mentally active even in advanced age is key to maintaining good memory function. Mental exercise and training can be a strategy to increase so called "brain reserve" later in life. Reading books, solving puzzles, Sudoku, crossword and participating in group discussions are all beneficial.
• Importance of our social connections in maintaining our brain function is usually underappreciated. Participation in social activities, community activites and maintaining social connections can improve cognition.