The mind functions largely like a huge and complex computer. The brain stores the information it considers important in "files" and when we remember something, it just "open" the stored files. Memory does not always work perfectly, as people get older, it can take longer to retrieve those files.
It is normal to forget things from time to time. Older people who forget things more often than other people their age may suffer from mild cognitive impairment but forgetting how to use the phone or how to get home may be signs of a more serious problem. These include Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, stroke, depression, head injury, thyroid problems, or reactions to certain drugs.
Mild cognitive memory impairment problems can include:
- Losing objects frequently
- Forgetting appointments or not attending an event
- Having problems finding the adequate words in a given moment when talking to others
Dementia is not a specific illness but rather a name given to designate a group of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. The persons with dementia may not be able to think clearly enough to carry out normal activities such as getting dressed or eating; they may lose the capability to resolve problems or to control their emotions. There can also be changes in their personalities; they can get agitated or see things that do not exist.
Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia; however memory loss in itself does not mean a person has dementia. Those persons with dementia have serious problems with two or more brain functions such as memory and speech. Although dementia is common in older persons, it is not a normal process of ageing.
Included in the primary preventative measures are those which:
- Promote healthy lifestyles (physical exercise, reading, mental exercises, etc.)
- Modify harmful lifestyles (a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, stress, social isolation, etc.)
- Health promotion, and as an instrument Health Education, which are key elements in primary prevention
Secondary preventative measures which help to make an early diagnosis and delay the onset of the illness are those that
Detect and delay risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hypothyroidism, depression, etc.
Early diagnosis of cognitive deterioration through tests or trials
Early application of pharmacologic /non-pharmacologic treatments
In third place of preventative measures are those which maximize use of a person´s capacities, preventing as much as possible dependency and tend to:
- Promote maintaining daily life activities and functional autonomy
- Develop activities that stimulate cognitive abilities
Gene or region studied