Memory loss and aging: what’s normal and what’s not

Summer 2009 CSANews Issue 71  |  Posted date : Jul 21, 2009.Back to list

Some memory loss with aging is completely normal. As we get older, we lose brain cells, a few at a time, and our bodies make less of the chemicals that help our brain cells to work. Therefore, aging can affect memory by changing the way in which our brain stores information and by making it more difficult to recall stored information. Normal memory loss includes forgetting the name of a person, place or thing. Although frustrating, it's not usually a serious problem and you'll almost always remember the name or word with time.

A memory problem is serious when is affects your daily life. Many factors, other than aging, can cause memory loss, such as depression, dementia, strokes, head injuries and the side-effects of certain drugs. If you start having difficulties with things that you've done many times before, it's time to talk to your family doctor. Serious memory problems include:
  • Forgetting things much more often than you used to
  • Forgetting how to do things that you've done many times before (i.e. following a recipe, driving to a well-known destination)
  • Having trouble learning new things
  • Repeating phrases or stories in the same conversation
  • Not being able to keep track of what happens each day
  • Having trouble making choices or handling money