Memory Loss Disease - What Causes Memory Loss?
My grandmother is the youngest of three siblings. She has two other sisters (one has since passed) but one is still living. My grandmother is 87 years old and my great aunt just turned 90. One may automatically assume that my grandmother would have a better memory than her older sister, but it is quite the contrary. My grandmother has severe dementia and cannot recognize family and cannot function by herself. Interestingly enough, when you ask her questions about her life, she can only recall her maiden name and doesn’t remember she was married or had children. She can recall events from her childhood in impressive detail. Anything from the last fifty years seems as though it has been ‘erased’ from her memory. On the other hand, my older, great aunt, still keeps up on current events and can hold normal conversations. They were raised by the same parents, in the same home. Situations like this add to the great mystery of human memory and aging.
The interesting aspect about memory loss is that it is commonly associated with aging. Statistically, more people do suffer from a reduced memory capacity later on in life, but the factors that cause poor memory can happen to almost anyone. To say that memory loss is inevitable in old age would be incorrect, however one can take steps to exercise their memory throughout their lifespan to increase their memory’s capability. Studies have proven that dementia, the leading cause of memory loss in seniors, can be reduced, however the exact causes of memory loss are still unknown.
To understand why memory loss is not inevitable in old age, we first must explore a few key facts. Firstly, not every 85 year old adult experiences memory loss. It is common, however not impossible for an 85 year old to have a sharp memory similar to that of someone in their thirties (just like my great aunt). They may not be able to recall information as quickly, however memory is not entirely based upon the speed of recollection, rather if recollection is at all possible. Secondly, at age 35, it is possible for a healthy person to have a stroke or be in a car accident and experience the same life changing memory loss as my 85 year old grandmother. Thus, one can conclude from these facts that memory loss is not inevitable at any age and certainly not in older age.
Dementia is said to affect about 10% of all adults that are age 65 or older in the U.S. population. (Ertel, Glymour, Berkman, 2008) Since memory loss is a prominent factor in diagnosing dementia, memory loss in older adults will not be inevitable until research is performed on what causes it and what can cure or prevent memory loss disease.
While the causes of dementia are still being researched, there has been progress in discovering ways to help decrease the rate of dementia in the senior aged 65+ population. In a recent study done to preserve memory function in the elderly, the results concluded that social integration can assist in delaying memory loss, however the study did not fully explore what particular aspects of social integration were most important when it comes to delaying memory in seniors and the study did not cover what caused the memory loss to begin with. (Ertel, Glymour, Berkman, 2008) Another study showed that the more exercise a person participated in, the lower their risk of suffering from dementia above the age of 65. (Larson, Wang, Bowen, McCormick, Teri, Crane, Kukull, 2006)
While memory loss in seniors is unfortunately not inevitable, the research being performed on ways to cure and slow down the widespread disease that affects memory loss in seniors, is progressively making groundbreaking discoveries. These findings have proven that it isn’t unreasonable to assume that the cause of dementia and its cure will be discovered in the near future.
Memory Loss Disease - Works Cited
Ertel, Karen A., Maria Glymour, and Lisa F. Berkman. "Effects of Social Integration on Preserving Memory Function in a Nationally Representative US Elderly Population." American Journal of Public Health 98 (2008): 1215-220. EBSCO. MasterFile Premier. 2 July 2009 <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=32967544&site=ehost-live>.
Larson, Eric B., Wang Li, James D. Bowen, Wayne C. McCormick, et. al. "Exercise Is Associated with Reduced Risk for Incident Dementia among Persons 65 Years of Age and Older." Annals of Internal Medicine 144 (2006). EBSCO. Academic Search Premier. 2 July 2009 <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=19511382&site=ehost-live>.
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