As we get older, many of us begin to forget things. Memory loss associated with aging is nothing to be concerned about, however, dementia is cause for concern. Dementia is a loss of brain function that is caused by a number of diseases. Dementia negatively affects an individual’s memory, thinking, language, judgement and behaviour. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive in nature and eventually leads to death.
Dementia affects each person uniquely. There are many factors, including personality, general health and social situation that will play a role in how dementia impacts their life.
Common early signs of dementia include:
- Memory loss, especially short term memory, is a common sign of dementia
- Difficulty with tasks that require some thought, such as balancing a cheque book
- Difficulty with making a decision
- Getting lost on familiar routes
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Words are frequently forgotten or used inappropriately
- Misplacing items, such as keys
- Personality changes which sometimes leads to inappropriate behaviour
As dementia worsens, so do the symptoms. These signs are commonly seen in individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease:
- Changing sleep patterns – often being awake during normal sleeping hours
- Difficulty with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, cooking, etc.)
- Forgetting past life events (your wedding, the birth of your children, etc.)
- Acting out, sometimes with violent behaviour
- Difficulty with reading and writing
- Speaking with confusing language
- The inability to recognize dangerous situations (crossing a road as a car is approaching, etc.)
- Withdrawing yourself from social situations (no longer seeing your friends and family)
As dementia or Alzheimer’s disease gets into the severe stages, people often can’t perform normal activities of daily living, can no longer recognize family and friends and have problems understanding language. While all stages of dementia impact an individual’s life, as the disease progresses, it can be life altering for not only the person with the disease but for their family and friends.
Is there anything you can do to have a better memory?
A strong memory relies heavily on the health of your brain. No matter what age you are, maintaining your memory or having a better memory is possible. Follow the tips below to improve your chances of having a better memory.
1. Get enough sleep – when you’re sleep deprived, your brain doesn’t work at its highest potential. Additionally, sleep is needed for memory strengthening.
2. Get outside and get active – regular physical activity increases the amount of oxygen delivered to your brain and can reduce the risk of diseases that can cause memory loss such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, regular physical activity decreases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.
3. Maintain your social relationships – in a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that individuals with the most socially active lifestyles had a better memory than their less socially active counterparts.
4. Exercise your brain – The brain is like any other muscle in our body, so the saying “use it or lose it” holds true. The brain is capable of producing new cells at any given age so memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not necessarily an inevitable part of the aging process. In fact, if you perform mental activities on a regular basis, you can end up having a better memory than you did years ago. Since memory is often one of the first early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to do activities that will help you to achieve better memory. Just like physical exercise can make your body stronger, mental exercise can make your brain stronger leading to a better memory.
Below is a list of activities that can “workout” your brain, in turn leading to a better memory.
1. Play games that require strategy – chess, dominos, scrabble, etc.
2. Play word and numbers puzzles – crosswords, Sudoku, etc.
3. Read – newspapers, books, magazines, etc.
4. Take on a project that requires planning – a renovation, gardening, etc.
Learn something new – instrument, language, etc.