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 Memory

June 2010
Memory And Ageing
Dr Amitabha Ghosh
 
It is common to hear older adults complaining about memory loss.  The more informed may even worry about having Alzheimer’s disease. A little loss of memory is normal with every passing decade in the older adult. This happens due to the normal ageing of our brain.

Just as we lose our hair or wrinkle our skin, our vision loses sharpness and our joints begin to creak. As we slow down with age, our brains slow down, too.

How Do We Lose Our Memory?
  • In the normal brain, information is carried around in the form of electrical signals through specialised fibres called neurons. 
  • The neurons, in turn, pass on this information to one another using specialised chemicals called neurotransmitters. 
  • As we age, the neurons in our brain become less abundant and the neurotransmitters dry up. One such neurotransmitter is called acetylcholine. 
  • The drying up of acetylcholine makes us lose a bit of our memory.
Did You Forget This?
  • Typically, we begin to forget names more.
  • Or we remember something that was said but cannot remember instantly who said it or the context in which it was said.
  • Sometimes, we even forget an event or two. We may remember them later but sometimes not at all.

Check Your Forgetfulness
How do you distinguish normal ageing from abnormal memory loss? A simple test is to check with people of your own age.
  • Do they seem to have the same problem or does your’s seem to be much worse?
  • What is the rate of progression of the memory loss?
  • In Alzheimer’s disease, there will be a definite worsening within a year or two of onset, while this will not happen in memory loss of normal ageing.
Will You Get Alzheimer’s?
Can we predict who will move from normal ageing to Alzheimer’s disease?  In most cases we cannot, but there are some patients who will pass through a milder form of memory impairment called Minimal Cognitive Impairment (MCI) before advancing to florid Alzheimer’s disease.  MCI is somewhere in between normal ageing and Alzheimer’s disease, though not all patients with MCI progress to Alzheimer’s disease - some may even improve in due course. The importance of MCI lies in the expectation that future treatments to prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease might want to target this stage of memory loss. 

5 Tips to Remember Right
  1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  2. Have a well balanced diet with lots of green vegetables (with a spoon or two of turmeric)
  3. Have a healthy habit of walking or doing any other exercise every day
  4. Keeping your sugars and cholesterols down
  5. Keep your brain active
Dr Amitabha Ghosh is Senior Consultant, and Head-Department of Neurology and Cognitive Neurology Unit at Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, Kolkata


    
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