Ever experienced senior moments? You walk into the kitchen, open the refrigerator door, and forget what you wanted. Some people call that a senior moment. Everybody has these moments: Car keys go missing? You can’t retrieve a once-familiar name? Anybody, at any age, might experience this but if you are over 55, these incidents may become more frequent. These memory lapses are often referred as senior moments. Does this mean Alzheimer’s is setting in? Can other things be happening? Are senior moments dangerous?
Cognitive memory research delves into senior moments as possible precursors to Alzheimer Disease, a prevailing, degenerative memory condition often associated with aging. There are also incidents where Alzheimer’s may occur at younger ages. Yet research still hasn’t approached sure-fire ways of pinpointing the causes and treatments of this well publicized disease that might result in senior moments. Alzheimer’s Disease remains the most generally talked about cognitive disease, and one of the most feared.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the new name for dementia and is nicely classed into stages of memory decline. Among physicians, it’s easy to jump on senior moments as harbingers of memory decline. The diagnosis requires noticeable impairments of at least two of these categories:
•Communication and language
•Ability to focus and pay attention
•Reasoning and judgment
We will go over some of these possible symptoms. You may find that they may not be Alzheimer’s related. You may find that you can do something about them. Having many senior moments may be frightening but they may not be as threatening as you might think. They may just be very annoying.
Based on this clinical indicator, there are approximately 5.2 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014, including some under 65. Of these, nearly twice as many women are affected as men. According to the Alzheimer Association prediction, Alzheimer’s disease will soar from 5 million to 13.8 million by 2050. Those are a lot of senior moments!
Needless to say, these astounding numbers and a rapidly aging population, ignite many pharmaceutical companies to deliver Alzheimer-prevention drugs that might fend off the effects. Yet, with the very exception of some mild cases (which may or may not have Alzheimer’s), drugs may rarely help the condition.
Some of the reasons may be due to the debating probabilities of what lies behind why only some people get Alzheimer’s and many don’t. The obvious theory is genetics – it runs in the family. While certain genes and proteins have been isolated, much more research is needed. While genetics is often theorized, the vagueness of the hereditary links confound research results. That is often why genetic diseases like muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis are difficult to cure.
For many years, sleep research has shown evidence that sleep, particularly dreams and sleep, improve long-term memory and emotions. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter often used with skeletal muscle movement. Yet, as you dream, acetylcholine rushes up your midbrain and helps “code” memory tracts. This shift is often associated with normal sleep paralysis as the neurotransmitter moves from muscles to the frontal areas of your brain. Failure of this process may be involved in poor memory retention and organization.
In the last decade, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has identified that patients with deposits of amyloid plaque in brain areas may be the cause of cognitive irregularities in Alzheimer patients. As MRI becomes more sensitive further trials aim to see the connections. A recent Duke University study indicates plaque may lead to forms of cognitive impairment. Small MRI research has also shown that there may be other factors at play in predicting cognitive dysfunction issues. The problem of relying on MRI research is that this important tool is very expensive and large studies can’t be performed to see if these deposits might be associated with those senior moments.
One indicator of senior moments may be time and passivity. Think about games like Trivial Pursuits. Cognition often links to rich associations. That’s why most people with senior moments can still perform well at work, driving, athletics, and general life. These rich associations almost become like instinctual memories. The use of Gestalt dynamics of working memory help imprint more associations to familiar and interesting events that create attentive impressions. Is it possible that focus and attention may somehow be diffused when activity and social interactions are compromised? Can this be associated with senior moments?
More new research is revealing some exciting insights for memory enhancement but these are still at mouse level. One study, just published in Cell Journal, highlights a hormone factor that may enhance memories for life extension.
Cognitive decline has been shown to slow with active social integration with friends, family, and communities. Social involvement of any kind may excite the senses that contribute to associative memory.
Maintaining creativity may also help reduce cognitive decline. Whether you are active in arts, crafts, or other things, it helps add plasticity to your brain.
The role of conscious awareness is a significant factor in reducing cognitive decline. One theory of Alzheimer’s is that a deterioration occurs in the pre-frontal cortex that reduces access to the midbrain’s memory storage called the limbic system. This area is associated with emotion and most memories are stored through likes and dislikes. These are important associations. Being consciously aware is significant at using those emotions to access memories.
Brainwashing often occurs as a means of sensory deprivation. When it comes to noticing more senior moments in life, seek out stimulation. Staying stimulated and directed may be an important tool to help avoid senior moments. Playing games on a computer or smartphone and accepting new challenges is associated with synaptic growth in neural networks. That helps memory retention.
Little known, is how many senior moments may be micro-size transient ischemic attacks or strokes that can affect parts of your brain throughout your lifespan. They may not be consciously felt but can be responsible for some senior moments. The result of these very tiny strokes over time may lead to Alzheimer symptoms. This shows that memory decline may be vascular in nature.
Few people realize that visual and hearing loss may play roles in memory decline. Possible retinopathy and other visual diseases may impair senses and contribute to memory loss. Studies also indicate the importance of hearing (listening) and learning. Having a loss of hearing may be associated with decline in memory functioning. It is one possible symptom of Alzheimer’s but may not be Alzheimer-related.
These are theories and so many other factors can help enhance or stabilize memory. When you begin noticing a higher rate of senior moments, check with your doctor. My recommendation is to seek out a major neurocognitive health facility. The depth of cognitive research and coping with preventing memory decline may offer some promising therapies. It may not be due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Not all cognitive declines may be associated with Alzheimer’s.
Senior moments and memory lapses are normal and may be found at different ages. Reasons may not be known. Hopefully, we’ll have possible treatments soon. Meanwhile, stay active and remember. Got an occasional senior moment? Don’t worry, it may be normal. Alzheimer Disease may be over-diagnosed but frequent senior moments can be very disturbing.