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Is This Normal?? Know the Symptoms

Last week I drove to the mall, did some shopping and then momentarily forgot where I parked my car. A lot of people tell me they do this and are concerned about it. Given that you park your car in a different spot most every time you go to the store this is a perfectly normal thing to forget. However, if you forget how to get the same store you've been frequenting for 20 years, this may be a sign of a more serious problem.

So how do you know if the things you forget are "normal" or not?

What differentiates "normal" forgetfulness from signs of a more serious problem has a lot to do with where in the brain the forgotten information was stored. For example, the hippocampus is considered the main area of the brain to receive and distribute new information. As we age, cells in this area both die off and regenerate, although the new cells grow more slowly and the old cells die more rapidly the older we get. This has a significant impact on memory.

If you forget the name of a person you just met at a party, that's neither terribly important nor a real problem. If you forget the name of your spouse of 30 years when telling a story, this is information stored in long term memory and is likely to signal a deeper problem (either with your memory or your marriage!).

Part of the problem is that by the time the more serious problems become apparent to loved ones, people with cognitive impairment are often far too advanced to take advantage of many of the new treatments for AD. For this reason it is important to know the possible signs and screen yourself and your loved ones regularly for brain health.

Here are some things that could signal cognitive impairment and should be causes to see your physician immediately:

  • Forgetting how to perform basic tasks like: operate microwave, manage checkbook or tell time
  • Getting confused or lost in familiar places
  • Forgetting the names of people you have been close with for many years
  • Loss of personal hygiene
  • Mood or behavior changes - this is an important one because depression (which is very treatable) can exacerbate AD symptoms and hasten progression of the disease

Regular cognitive screening will help alleviate concerns for those with normal memory problems and will underscore the need for further medical evaluation for those with early warning signs.  You can screen yourself with our online test by clicking here.

More about the Test

Learn more about what makes COGselftest a valid and accurate measure of mild cognitive impairment and AD.

More about Alzheimer's

Browse our Alzheimer´┐Żs resources to learn more about symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, care and more.