One of the most common concerns I hear from patients over the age of 50 is declining memory. The term often used by doctors to describe this condition is age-associated memory impairment or mild cognitive impairment.
It can be very frustrating for those who have memory problems. It causes embarrassment when you lose things often, forget appointments or important events, or struggle to come up with the words you want to use in conversations.
There are several reasons why people develop memory and focus problems. While doctors often blame aging, we all know people who are very mentally sharp in their later years. Instead of blaming memory issues on aging, I think people are better served by addressing root causes that affect cognitive function. The underlying issues I look at with patients include:
*Damaging effects of chronic stress due to prolonged levels of the hormone cortisol
* Hormone deficiencies (e.g., thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, growth hormone)
* Prediabetes or diabetes
* Chronic infections or the inflammatory effects of infections as we see in recent times
* Environmental toxins such as toxic metals (e.g., mercury, lead, etc.)
* Nutritional deficiencies (e.g., B12, B1, omega 3, antioxidants)
* Side effects of medications (e.g., antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, sleep medications, pain medications, and others).
* Excess use of alcohol, smoking, recreational drug use
* Poor brain blood flow (due to atherosclerosis-plaque filled arteries restricting blood flow)
* Lack of exercise
A good holistic doctor can help you investigate these various causes.
There are no effective drug therapies for age-associated memory impairment. However, there is much evidence demonstrating how nutrition and brain-specific nutrients can positively impact cognitive decline due to aging.
Age-Related Memory Impairment vs. Alzheimer’s disease
People are often concerned with their memory problems and whether they are progressing to a form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. The National Institute on Aging has a good summary chart on the differences between “normal aging” and Alzheimer’s disease, as seen below.
|Normal aging||Alzheimer’s disease|
|Making a bad decision once in a while||Making poor judgments and decisions a lot of the time|
|Missing a monthly payment||Problems taking care of monthly bills|
|Forgetting which day, it is and remembering it later||Losing track of the date or time of year|
|Sometimes forgetting which word to use||Trouble having a conversation|
|Losing things from time to time||Misplacing things often and being unable to find them|