Lots of us have experienced our mind going blank when we're in the middle of a conversation, forgetting someone's name at the worst possible moment or that frustrating feeling of the answer to an easy quiz question disappearing from the tip-of-our-tongue. So far so common, but when should we worry about our memory?
A professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Irving Medical Centre in the US has revealed the early warning sign of dementia that she looks for in her patients – and explained why the majority of us have nothing to worry about.
'Starting in our 30s, the brain starts to shrink very, very slowly—it’s not even perceptible to most people,' Elise Caccappolo, Ph.D. told our American sister site, Prevention. 'This can result in slower processing speed and slowed retrieval.'
Mind blanks are very common and not a sign of dementia on their own because as Caccappolo explained 'for someone to be diagnosed with dementia, they have to have significant decline in more than one cognitive area, and those changes have to affect their daily living.'
This means someone in the early stages of dementia is not only forgetful, but having issues in other areas such as speech or spatial awareness.
There is, however, one question Caccapolo always asks patients who are concerned that their memory loss could be something more serious – and it's about managing money.
She told Prevention that she commonly enquires along these lines: 'Are you still managing the household finances? Are you paying your bills on time? Have you paid any bills twice? Are you making errors when you’re balancing your chequebook?'
This is because people with dementia often have trouble with abstract thinking, such as adding up simple sums or following the steps to pay a bill. They might also become mixed-up with their spending, for example paying for something twice.
Other early indicators of memory loss caused by dementia include forgetting facts they've just learned, getting lost in a familiar place and confusion about the time or day. But a doctor's opinion is essential to rule out other common factors so if you're concerned about memory loss, speak to your GP.
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