When it’s time to call the doctor
If there’s one point Dr. Wasserman wants to make clear, it’s that cognitive changes like memory loss or confusion that interfere with your normal routine should not be accepted as just another part of getting older. “No one should have the sense that significant loss of brain function is associated with normal aging—it’s just an absolute untruth,” he says. Dr. Holtzman adds that cognitive changes affecting daily life are a reason to talk to your doctor to find out what the real problems are. “A decline in memory and thinking that is noticeable by others and is a clear change from previous function should prompt investigation into whether there is a reason beyond just normal aging that may account for such a change,” he urges. Next, read about these everyday habits that can make you look younger.
Plain old aging
First things first: There’s a big difference between the brain changes of normal aging and the cognitive disruptions of diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. “In a normal, healthy brain, the major thing that happens as we get older is our neurons slow down a bit,” says Michael R. Wasserman, MD, board member of the American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging Foundation. Such slowing could mean taking a bit longer to process or react to new information. But Dr. Wasserman is quick to add two crucial points. One: Everyone is different. “I’ve met plenty of 100 year olds who are sharp as a tack.” And two: Cognitive problems that make it harder to get through your day, such as the following signs and symptoms, shouldn’t be accepted as part of aging; they should be taken as a signal to see your doctor. Watch out for these habits that are making you age faster.