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Health column: Memory loss – What’s normal, what’s not

in Health

The month of May is recognized as better Hearing and Speech Month.

Information is stored in various parts of your memory. Short-term memory may include someone’s name you’ve just met. Recent memory may include what you ate for breakfast, and remote or long-term memory includes your memories from years ago.

Beginning in your 20s, you begin to lose brain cells and as a result short-term and remote memories aren’t usually affected by aging, but your recent memory may be. This is normal and to help remember important dates and details, you can keep lists, use calendars, follow routines, and do things that keep your mind and body busy.

Many things other than aging can cause memory problems, including depression, stroke, head injury, side effects of drugs, alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease. These memory problems should be discussed with your physician. Memory problems that are not part of normal aging include:

  • Forgetting things much more often
  • Forgetting how to do things you’ve done many times before
  • Trouble learning new things
  • Repeating stories in the same conversation
  • Trouble making choices or handling money
  • Not being able to keep track of what happens each day

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. At first, a person with Alzheimer’s will remember details of the distant past, but not recent events or conversations. Over time, the disease will affect all parts of the person’s memory. When it becomes advanced, they will no longer be able to communicate effectively.

Lee adds that mild memory loss comes normally with aging and keeping the brain active is key. Reading, singing, completing puzzles, playing cards, exercising and eating a balanced diet stimulates blood flow and activity in the brain.

Speech pathologists treat memory loss by providing patients with strategies to improve memory or teach the use of compensatory strategies such as calendars, alarms and highlights to create memory reminders.

Nicole Lee is a speech therapist with Ascension Rehabilitation Services at Ascension Good Samaritan Hospital.

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