You’re driving the car—and forget where you’re going.
You walk into the kitchen—and don’t remember why.
A neighbor greets you at a party—and you can’t remember her name.
It’s frustrating—and scary. Are you developing dementia? Alzheimer’s?
It’s possible, of course. Only a thorough examination by a physician who can monitor behavior over time can determine for sure.
(At right: Madeline DiPasquale, PhD (photo by Wes Hilton)
But chances are—you’re just getting old.
“Normal aging of the brain starts around 40, but most of us don’t feel the effects until the sixth or seventh decade,” said Madeline DiPasquale, PhD, clinical neuropsychologist at MossRehab, one of the country’s top-ranked rehab facilities, which is part of Einstein Healthcare Network.
“Our brain has a 2 per cent reduction in volume every decade,” Dr. DiPasquale said. “Our neurons shrink. Some of them die.”
But thinking you have Alzheimer’s because you have memory lapses is like thinking you have lung cancer because you’re winded after you run up three flights of stairs. The brain ages the same way our lungs and heart and other organs do.
“Cognitive aging happens to everyone,” Dr. DiPasquale said. Changes in the medial temporal lobe and prefrontal cortex, which are linked to memory, affect “our ability to process information quickly, to attend to multiple pieces of information, to encode it for recall at a later time,” she said. No amount of kale or yoga will prevent your brain from aging. But simple things can slow down the process.
“I always recommend that people do something physical, cognitive and social every day,” she said, such as walking, reading and getting together with friends.
In the meantime, don't panic. And by the way, about your glasses—they're propped on your head.