If you’re worried that those occasional memory lapses that are popularly called “senior moments” could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, a new clinical trial from Germany might set your mind at rest. Most of those memory lapses are not cause for concern, the study found.
Researchers spent three years following more than 350 men and women age 75 and older, all of whom had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment but not dementia. The upshot of their study was the finding that in 42 percent of all cases, the study participants’ normal mental function returned; 21 percent of the participants fluctuated between mild cognitive impairment and normal mental function, while the mild cognitive impairment did not worsen in 15 percent. The final 22 percent went on to develop dementia.
The investigators reported that the individuals most likely to develop this diagnosis also had signs of depression, their initial cognitive impairment was more severe than others in the group, and they were older than others in the study. The findings were published in the March/April 2014 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
This news should reassure most people experiencing senior moments. Keep in mind that stress and anxiety can lead to these memory lapses, as can lack of sleep (you need at least six hours a night for memory to perform optimally). To counter stress and anxiety, try breathing exercises, meditation, relaxation training, or yoga. If neither of those two potential causes is a problem, it would be worth your while to have your thyroid function tested (problems can arise at any age and treatment can improve memory).
Also consider whether any drugs you’re taking could be responsible – the usual suspects here are sleeping pills, anti-anxiety drugs, painkillers, antihistamines and antidepressants. Recreational drugs and alcohol can also contribute to memory lapses.
Brain fog is a common feature of menopause which along with sleep issues, stress and inability to focus can cause you to ‘lose’ information. Progesterone has a role to play in helping boost memory and focus and so do a number of simple measures like always having a breakfast that nourishes you with fruit, whole grains and some form of protein. Omega 3 fatty acids and oily fish are dietary essentials as are avocados, nuts and seeds. Dark chocolate also has brain healthy ingredients, just make sure it is a very high cocoa content and don’t eat the whole bar at once!