Wellness Matters: Recognize and Understand Memory Loss

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The following weekly column is written and sponsored by Virginia Hospital Center, a proud member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network and one of America’s 100 Top Hospitals for the third year in a row.

Raise your hand if this has happened to you: You walk into a room and can’t remember what you came for. You meet your spouse’s boss and immediately forget her name. Or this oldie but goodie: You can’t recall where you put your keys. Simple forgetfulness or something worse?

“Memory loss is a common part of aging, but there’s a difference between normal, age-related memory loss and changes in memory associated with conditions such as dementia, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Lena Wang, Senior Health services at Virginia Hospital Center. “It’s important to understand how these conditions differ and recognize the symptoms so you can get help — for yourself or a loved one.”

Getting older involves a degree of memory loss, which may also include a small decline in thinking skills. But this natural process does not prevent you from living a full and productive life. You can still work. You can still live independently. And you can still remember most things clearly.

Mild cognitive impairment involves problems with memory, language, thinking and judgement that extend beyond normal age-related changes. You and your family and friends may notice these changes, but they don’t prevent you from carrying out routine activities of daily living.

Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms that include impairment in memory, reasoning, language and complex motor skills. Dementia involves damage to nerve cells in the brain, and may affect people differently, depending on the area of the brain involved. Dementia has many causes, including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, infections, immune disorders and other conditions.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells and the cells’ connections with neurons. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Initial symptoms include forgetfulness or mild confusion. Over time, memory problems worsen, especially the ability to recall recent events. Symptoms and disease progression vary from person to person.

November 1-7 is National Memory Screening Week. Sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, it promotes early detection and treatment of memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease. Virginia Hospital Center and Care Options will sponsor a free, confidential Memory Screening on Thursday, November 12, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Langston-Brown Senior Center, 2121 N. Culpepper Street in Arlington. This fast and easy assessment takes less than 10 minutes and is administered by a qualified healthcare professional. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 703-237-9048.

To find out more about Virginia Hospital Center’s excellent programs and classes on Senior Health, click here.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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