Is Memory Loss a Normal Part of Aging?

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

In a recent posting supporting the value of awareness in our collective fight against Alzheimer's disease, I wrote that memory loss is not a normal part of aging. Based on comments left by readers, it became clear to me that, among some portion of the population, that is a difficult fact to accept. In fact, by most readers' accounts, the evidence seems stacked in the other direction with a high percentage of elders complaining of eroding ability to store and retrieve information.

Given this response, I think it is important to reconcile the two perspectives. There are two important points to consider.

First, what many label as "memory loss" is actually something else; commonly "slow recall" or "distraction". Each of these is described in full in this earlier post. It is clear that the term "memory loss" is interpreted quite widely and many consider all sorts of cognitive deficits to be memory problems when often they are something else. At the end of the day, there are probably far fewer actual "memory complaints" than many of the readers perceive.

Second, because medical conditions that impair memory are prevalent in old age, memory loss is indeed common. People with depression, thyroid disease, vitamin deficiencies, multiple medications, metabolic disorders, vascular disease and early stage Alzheimer's may all complain of memory loss. My earlier posting took the position that having one of these conditions is not normal.

In hindsight, it would have been more clear for me to write that memory loss is not a normal part of healthy aging.

1 comment :

  1. Aging is an accumulation of losses; physical, social, emotional.
    Instead of brain and memory substitute the words muscle and strength. Is the loss of muscle mass and strength a normal part of aging? Yes. Even Jack Lalane is not as strong as he was 70 years ago and he has lost muscle mass. Is this 'normal'? I dont think anybody has done more to stay in shape through the years than Mr.Lalane, but the losses occur. It should be obvious that not everyone experience the same loss of strength or muscle tissue but it DOES occur. Yes, pathology and disuse can and will accelerate it.
    Now apply the same concepts to the brain. The loss of SOME brain function is to be expected. If you exercise it, it may be delayed. If you have a disease it WILL be accelerated.
    If physical, social and emotional losses have not accured somewhere in your life experience then you have indeed found the fountain of youth.