Everybody wants to know as they age if something serious may be behind their memory loss. Usually, memory loss is just a part of aging. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't find out for sure.
Step 1: Reassure yourself Reassure yourself about losing your memory as you age. Being aware of the problem is an indication that your brain isn't likely damaged.
Step 2: Connect episodes Connect fuzzy episodes with minor falls or slight head trauma, and your memory problems may be a natural consequence. Serious memory deficits, a lump, or headaches and persistent disorientation should be checked out.
TIP: Traumatic head injury has been known to precede Alzheimer's, but may be unrelated.
Step 3: Consider stress Consider that constant stress, depression, conflict, sadness, or anxiety, while serious, can trigger lapses in memory. Determine your triggers by getting counseling and learning to relax before you conclude that a disease the cause.
Step 4: Confuse normal activities Confuse familiar actions or activities in a series, such as recipe directions, putting things together, a house cleaning routine, and there may be cause for concern. Alzheimer's tends to affect the logic functions of the brain first.
Step 5: Get lost Get lost in stores or while driving in a familiar area, and your inability to function may be chronic. If you can't correct it or are unable to follow simple directions, don't go places alone until you know for certain.
TIP: Rely on family, friends, and loved ones to observe abnormal changes in your functioning -- don't try to hide the problem.
Step 6: Recognize that numbers count Recognize that continual problems with numbers, dates, or basic check-balancing skills might indicate mental decline.
Step 7: Behave irritably Notice sudden, atypical irritability or indifference, and maybe your memory loss is just the result of going through a tough period. Such episodes, however, may indicate something serious.
Step 8: Check it out Check with a physician if you have been asking the same questions repeatedly or using simple words inaccurately, like "bike" for "car." Now you'll know if there's something serious leading to your memory loss.
FACT: More than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, most of them aged 65 and older, according to the Alzheimer's Association.