Short-term memory loss
When it comes to disorders of the older brain, Alzheimer’s disease is a biggie, and it has a pretty clear early warning sign. “The area of the brain Alzheimer’s affects most is short-term memory,” says Dr. Wasserman. “So the major early symptom of the disease is short-term memory loss—that’s what everyone notices.” This could include everything from forgetting the day’s events to an inability to recall instructions. Repeating questions or forgetting recent conversations are also among the indicators, says David M. Holtzman, MD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Neurology, Washington University in St. Louis. “This can be caused by dysfunction in the medial temporal lobe, frequently among the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease as well as some other brain disorders,” he explains.
Long-term memory loss
If your memory problems extend to things that happened years or decades in the past, it’s possible you might be dealing with a different type of dementia, says Dr. Wasserman. “For people with Alzheimer’s, long-term memory tends to hold out, but with other forms of dementia you may have more long-term memory issues.” Multi-infarct dementia—caused by multiple strokes, which interrupt blood supply resulting in damaged brain tissue—is probably the best example because the strokes may hit part of brain responsible for long-term memory, he explains. These anti-aging secrets can add years to your life.
Trouble finding words
Even a healthy 40-year-old can catch herself having trouble coming up with someone’s name. But later in life, difficulty remembering vocabulary basics—like words for often-used items from “toaster” to “steering wheel”—could be a sign of cognitive problems. “This is caused by difficulty in the parts of the brain that control language, usually in the left temporal or parietal lobe, and it can also be a first sign of Alzheimer’s disease, other neurodegenerative disorders, a structural brain lesion or stroke-related damage,” Dr. Holtzman explains.