When is normal forgetfulness of ageing more suggestive of dementia?

I was surprised and slightly perturbed to read that after the age of 40 we are all losing about 10,000 neurones a day- luckily we have billions to start with! But it's true that as we age we all do experience some normal age-related cognitive decline.

This can manifest with less ability to manage tasks that require divided attention.  I'm afraid I'm aware of this catching myself recently asking a cafe to turn down the music while I was working on something important on my laptop! Just becoming a grumpy old man perhaps?

As we get older our cognitive processing can get slower too, though most of the decline seems to be a retrieval issue rather than a storage issue. It's like all the clothes are still in the cupboard but we can't find that jacket we are looking for just when we want it.

And then there's always that concern about dementia, which is when memory problems go beyond normal age-related cognitive decline and in fact affects some 300,000 Australians.  Actually dementia is not one disease ~ there are lots of different types with 70% of cases being what we call Alzheimer's disease and about 10 to 15% being vascular dementia due to poor blood supply to the brain. 

So the question is what are the first cognitive domains affected in dementia which might suggest memory problems beyond normal aging? Short-term memory and orientation to time often are the first affected.  So people with early dementia may well forget what they had for lunch, miss appointments, or might be a bit confused about the time relationship between recent events.

In any case if you would like to read more about this important issue, I highly recommend the chapter in our Future Leaders book Living Life Loving Life, called Brain Health by Professors McFarlane and O'Connor.  They are leading clinicians and researchers in Australia in the area of cognitive decline and dementias  

And of course  If you are worried about your memory, or that of a loved one, go along to your GP who can do some simple tests to see if there may be a more serious reason for memory problems  and refer you if necessary.  

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