Here’s how to tell the difference between the normal memory loss associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory Loss: How to Tell if It’s Alzheimer’s

In All Health Watch, Alzheimer's and Memory, Anti-Aging, Cognitive Health, Dementia, Featured Article, Longevity

“Where are my darn car keys…what’s the name of my neighbor’s barking dog…I can’t remember where we’re going to dinner tonight.”

“Could I have early Alzheimer’s disease?”

If you’ve had these thoughts, don’t panic. As we get older, we all experience some memory loss. Neural growth declines and blood flow to the brain decreases. Both impair our memory.

Is It Alzheimer’s or Is It Normal?

INH has compiled behaviors that indicate normal memory loss and those that could indicate Alzheimer’s.

Brain experts note that normal memory loss usually is not so severe that it impairs day-to-day activities. If it does, then it’s time to be tested for Alzheimer’s.

Signs of Normal Memory Loss

  • It takes longer to learn new things.
  • You misplace keys, glasses, or other common items. But you find them in normal locations.
  • You occasionally can’t remember certain words, but have no trouble holding a conversation.
  • You have occasional memory lapses, but they don’t stop you from performing normal activities at work or home.
  • You are able to recall and describe incidents of forgetfulness.
  • You may have difficulty understanding directions, but you don’t get lost in familiar places.1,2

Signs of Alzheimer’s   

  • You misplace keys or other common items, but you find them in unusual places such as the refrigerator.
  • It used to be easy to balance your checkbook. Now you can’t do it.
  • Others tell you that you are dressing inappropriately. You may put on a winter coat in summer.
  • You are unable to recall or describe instances where memory loss caused problems.
  • You behave in socially inappropriate ways that your friends bring to your attention.
  • You forget entire recent conversations.
  • You forget the names of close friends and relatives.
  • You regularly forget where you parked your car. (For some people, it’s normal to do this occasionally.)
  • You get lost in places you know well.
  • You ask the same questions over and over.
  • Your memory loss is getting notably worse.
  • You neglect personal hygiene.3,4,5

Even if you are showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, it doesn’t mean you have the disease.

Medical Conditions that can Mimic Alzheimer’s

There are many medical conditions that are known to cause Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. These include:6,7

  • Depression
  • Medication use (common ones include sleeping pills, antidepressants, and a class of drugs called anticholinergics prescribed for a wide range of conditions)
  • Vitamin B1 or B12 deficiency
  • Blood clots or brain tumors
  • Concussion
  • Thyroid, kidney, or liver conditions
  • Lyme disease, herpes, or urinary tract infections
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus (a condition characterized by fluid build-up in the brain)

Have your doctor check if these conditions might be causing your symptoms. Sometimes a simple treatment for an underlying medical condition quickly improves memory problems.

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In Good Health,

Angela Salerno
Executive Director, INH Health Watch

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