The word “dementia” is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms, including impairment in memory, reasoning, judgment, language and other thinking skills. Dementia begins gradually in most cases, worsens over time and significantly impairs a person’s abilities in work, social interactions and relationships.
Often, memory loss is one of the first or more recognizable signs of dementia. Other early signs may include: -Asking the same questions repeatedly -Forgetting common words when speaking -Mixing words up — saying “bed” instead of “table,” for example -Taking longer to complete familiar tasks, such as following a recipe -Misplacing items in inappropriate places, such as putting a wallet in a kitchen drawer -Getting lost while walking or driving around a familiar neighborhood -Undergoing sudden changes in mood or behavior for no apparent reason -Becoming less able to follow directions
Diseases that cause progressive damage to the brain — and consequently result in dementia — include: -Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia -Vascular dementia (multi-infarct dementia) -Frontotemporal dementia
-Lewy body dementia
Each of these conditions has a somewhat different disease process (pathology). Memory impairment isn’t always the first sign of disease, and the type of memory problems may vary.
Concerned about memory loss? Take heart. Simple steps — from staying mentally active to including physical activity in your daily routine — may help sharpen your memory. Can’t find your car keys? Forget what’s on your grocery list? You’re not alone. Everyone forgets things occasionally. Still, memory loss is nothing to take lightly. Although there are no guarantees when it comes to preventing memory loss or dementia, memory tricks can be helpful. Consider four simple ways to sharpen your memory — and know when to seek help for memory loss. -Stay mentally active. Just as physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape — and perhaps keep memory loss at bay. Do crossword puzzles. Read a section of the newspaper that you normally skip. Take alternate routes when driving. Learn to play a musical instrument. Volunteer at a local school or community organization. -Socialize regularly. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others — especially if you live alone. When you’re invited to share a meal or attend an event, go! -Get organized. You’re more likely to forget things if your home is cluttered and your notes are in disarray. Jot down tasks, appointments and other events in a special notebook, calendar or electronic planner. You might even repeat each entry out loud as you jot it down to help cement it in your memory. Keep to-do lists current, and check off items you’ve completed. Set aside a certain place for your wallet, keys and other essentials. -Focus. Limit distractions, and don’t try to do too many things at once. If you focus on the information that you’re trying to remember, you’ll be more likely to recall it later. It might also help to connect what you’re trying to remember to a favorite song or another familiar concept.