As we age, our memory seems to get worse. For example, we may find it hard to remember details about things we did recently. We may find it hard to remember lists or numbers. We may also find that sometimes we forget to do something we had planned. We may even call these “senior moments.” Normal age related memory loss is real and nothing to be alarmed about. However, normal age related memory loss is small and should have little impact on your daily life.

What is Disease Related Memory Loss?

Disease related memory loss is different — it involves the death of brain cells called neurons. To form new memories, we build new connections between the neurons. As a disease like Alzheimer’s progresses, neurons wither and die. When someone loses more of these cells over time, at first they can’t think as quickly as they used to and then they lose the ability to remember certain things. Finally, they lose the abilities necessary to be able to live independently. So, disease related memory loss starts out as almost indistinguishable from normal age related memory loss, but it slowly progresses. The good news is that there are treatments for disease related memory loss, but these treatments are most effective when given in the earliest stages of the disease.

How common is disease related memory loss?

So, how common is disease related memory loss? When memory loss becomes severe enough, we call it dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common types of dementia. Data from the National Institutes of Health indicate that before the age of 60, the incidence of dementia is quite low, below 1%. However, the rate of dementia starts to dramatically climb at age 65, so that at 85 there is greater than a 50% chance that people will experience some form of cognitive loss. So, cognitive loss will not affect one person here or there. It can affect you, and if not you, your family or someone you know.

How do I know if my memory lapses are normal?

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for a person or his or her family to distinguish normal age related memory loss from early stage disease related memory loss. It is critical, however, to catch disease related memory loss in its early stages in order to provide the most advantageous treatment. We designed the MARS Memory Check-up specifically to assess whether your memory is functioning normally for your age. The MARS Memory Check-up provides the best way to protect yourself against the effects of disease related memory loss.

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