Age and Memory Loss

Q. I am in my middle 60s and worried about my memory. I’ll walk from one room to the next and forget what I am there for. Sometimes during the day, I’ll just forget my last thought, even when I have been thinking about a problem that has some relevance to me. How much should I be worried?

A. Memory naturally declines as we get older. While this could be a form of short-term memory loss, it only becomes a real problem when it is persistent and begins to interfere with your daily functioning. If you have difficulties performing your job because of memory lapses, or lose your way home from a grocery store run, for example, then it is time to be concerned. Your health-care provider can conduct a cognitive screening and, if indicated, refer you to a psychologist or neurologist for a thorough cognitive evaluation. Remember that certain medications, such as sleep aids and antidepressants, can cause memory problems. Other causes include smoking, alcohol, or drug abuse; a head injury; or stroke. A vitamin B12 deficiency, which is most common in older people (who have trouble absorbing the nutrient from food), could also be playing a role.

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Our expert: Jackson Rainer is a board-certified clinical psychologist who practices with the Care and Counseling Center in Decatur, Georgia, helping people living with chronic illnesses. He consults with a variety of experts to answer a selection of readers’ questions in each issue of Pain-Free Living.

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