What is normal and when to intervene

Older people often worry about their thinking skills. Sometimes they can miss a bill payment or forget an appointment or the name of a familiar person. Slight forgetfulness is part of normal aging and does not indicate brain dysfunction. This mild forgetfulness of aging does not affect daily activities like cooking, driving, coming home or using the phone.

Signs that may suggest dementia

However, in a minority of older people, forgetting and thinking skills can be severe enough to interfere with activities of daily living. At this point, the possibility of dementia should be considered and the advice of a neurologist should be sought. Confusion about time or place, getting lost in familiar places, asking the same questions over and over again, having trouble following a recipe or instructions, and poor personal care are some of the characteristics that can suggest a possibility of dementia. These symptoms can progress over time, making 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 that can maintain brain health in older people and prevent the development of severe memory impairment or dementia. Good nutrition, regular physical activity, active mental activity, and maintaining emotional connections are important for 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 intake, avoiding high energy foods, and quitting smoking are essential.

• The risk of dementia is reduced in those who exercise regularly as opposed to those who do not exercise regularly. The benefits of exercise are visible even when it is initiated later in life. Men who walk 3 to 4 kilometers a day are less likely to develop dementia.

• Staying mentally active even in old age is essential for maintaining good memory function. Mental exercise and training can be a strategy to increase “brain reserve” later in life. Reading books, solving puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, crosswords, and participating in group discussions are all beneficial.

• The importance of our social ties in maintaining our brain function is generally underestimated. Participation in social activities, community activities, and maintaining social connections can improve cognition.

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