Normal Aging vs. Memory Loss Due To Dementia: How To Tell Them Apart?

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There is a big difference between simple forgetfulness due to aging and memory loss due to neurocognitive issues such as dementia. However, it’s not always easy to tell them apart, especially when age is factored in. 

According to a recent study published in The BMJ, 40% of people aged 65 and above develop age-related memory problems. However, only 1% will develop a form of dementia.

For those worried about their occasional absentmindedness being an early sign of dementia or other neurological disorders, the Alzheimer’s Society has shared the common signs that it’s just mild memory lapses due to aging. 

According to the research society, the signs typically start to manifest in people between 40 and 60. They include becoming a little more forgetful than usual and taking a bit longer to remember stuff. 

Another sign of normal aging is getting distracted more easily. Having a hard time doing several things at once is also a tell-tale sign that there’s nothing to worry.

So when does forgetfulness become a serious issue? And when does it signify a possible mild cognitive impairment that could lead to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?

Experts said the following symptoms indicate the presence of mild cognitive impairment: forgetting appointments and social events, misplacing household items frequently and having trouble remembering instructions and conversations. 

Re: Cognition Health CEO and consultant neurologist Dr. Emer MacSweeney told Medical News Today that people should not believe the notion that age-related memory loss is inevitable. 

“It’s not normal to develop cognitive issues and short-term memory loss as we get older, As everyone knows, lots of elderly people do not develop this problem,” she said. 

Dr. MacSweeney noted that the frequent memory lapses people experience as they age are not necessarily a sign of any serious cognitive issue. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic, memory problems have become more prevalent in some cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection because the disease is known to cause brain fog. 

Though the MCI symptoms may develop into dementia, for most people, this does not progress further. When it doesn’t, the symptoms eventually just go away. But when they persist for a long time, it is a must to seek medical help. 

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