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That’s a question I hear from patients several times a week. The inquirer, usually a woman in her late forties or early fifties, knows for certain something is wrong.
“My brain’s turned to mush.” “I handle my company’s finances and I don’t trust myself to add up a column of figures.”
“I can’t find the right word for something. My sentences have gaps. I think I must look pretty desperate, Dr. Edelman.” “It’s Edelberg” I say. “See what I mean?” she says.
It’s not your imagination. Your brain does change over time and there’s a term for it–age-related memory loss.
As you age, you’ll discover it takes longer to learn new material, but once you do learn it, you’ll retain the material well. Your brain is able to recall older information more readily than newer stuff, which is why you can recite the words of a TV commercial from your childhood, but have difficulty remembering the name of the person you were just introduced to. You may recall the color of your prom dress but not what you ate for breakfast.
Any good news? Indeed there is.
First, it’s unlikely you’re developing Alzheimer’s. Most people who do are not aware that anything’s going wrong. Those who actually are suffering from this condition, when confronted with declining brain function, usually deny it. Your very concern about your mental function is good news.
Second, you can reverse, or at least slow down, a lot of this, so that looking back a few months from now, you can honestly say “I believe my brain is getting better.”
In honor of our brains, for the next several weeks our health tips will address the reasons–besides just getting older–why your brain could be acting up. We’ll also offer some easy steps you can take to reverse this unpleasantness.
David Edelberg, MD