Suspect your memory isn't what it used to be? You could be right. But the reasons for your cognitive slump might not be the ones you worry about.
“Slow cognitive decline is expected as we get older,” says Joel Salinas, a neurologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Neurology Henry and Allison McCance Center for Brain Health. What's not considered a normal or expected part of aging, he says, is dementia — a disease signaled by “more rapid decline in cognitive abilities.”
Many older adults worry about big causes, such as Alzheimer's, without realizing that, “in fact, many cognitive issues signal more general health problems such as thyroid issues, dehydration or lifestyle issues that can be reversed,” Salinas notes.
Low thyroid functioning, he says, can be experienced as ongoing fatigue and slowed thinking. Too much alcohol can impair memory, and dehydration — often simply not drinking enough water throughout the day — causes too little blood flow to the brain.
Getting at the bottom of what's affecting your ability to reason, remember or articulate your thoughts is important. To that end, Donna de Levante Raphael, director of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America National Memory Screening Program, says a memory screening, covered by Medicare, should be part of your annual wellness visit. You might find out that your cognitive issues are caused by one of the below factors — and can often be reversed.