We all experience memory lapses from time to time. It’s not unusual and for the most part nothing to worry about. As we age, and the lapses come more often, we start to worry that other things may be going wrong – like the beginning of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, memory is “the mental capacity or faculty of retaining or recalling facts, events, impressions or previous experiences.”  Science defines memory in six different phases:

  • Short-Term Memory – Where you can remember something for a brief period of time, such as a telephone number until you dial it.
  • Recent Memory – Processing information you just learned, or going through day-to-day activities.
  • Sensory Memory – Recalling smells, sights, taste and sounds
  • Long-Term Memory – Bringing up distant memories and experiences
  • Declarative Memory – General knowledge skills, such as vocabulary words and facts
  • Procedural Memory – Automatic memory of motor skills, chewing, walking or riding a bicycle.

Discarding the occasional memory lapses due to selective hearing (like when your spouse asks you to do something), or information overload (when you’ve got too many balls in the air at the same time), most people go through the occasional “brain freeze” throughout their lives. It starts to become more noticeable, and even more frightening, when you get to be around 50. Some people may feel the onslaught begin as early as 30.

This inability to remember all the little things do not always indicate a decline in cognitive powers or that a form of dementia is inevitable. A doctor once told a friend who was worried about this problem that “your brain is just discarding information that you don’t need to make room for things you learning, kind of like the trash bin in your computer.” In other words, when your memory gets too full you need to dump things that are slowing it down. Now I don’t know if that’s a great analogy, but it worked for my friend.

There are often outside influences that affect our memory. They can include, but are not limited to hormonal imbalance (like women in menopause), high blood pressure, low thyroid, diabetes, too much alcohol consumption, poor diet, lack of sleep, or medications that you are taking.

More serious memory decline (known as MCI – mild cognitive impairment) is estimated to impact 1% – 26% of Americans aged 65 or older. It is a transitional phase of aging, were momentary lapses are more frequent, and although may be a cause for concern for those who have it and those around them, does not impair judgment.

Studies have suggested that approximately 10% of those with a specific form of memory-related MCI go on to develop some form of dementia, Alzheimer’s (AD) being the most common. It is believed that less than 10% of people 65 and over will actually develop full-blown AD, 47% of those over 85 will.

The good new is, studies have shown that the use of memory training and memory techniques can help to strengthen the brain cells, and can prolong or reverse the loss of memory, or total incapacitation from dementia.


Memory Lapses, Postit Science:  http://www.positscience.com/human-brain/memory/memory-lapses

34 Menopause Symptoms: http://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com/memory-lapses.htm