Memory Lapse or Dementia? 5 Clues to Help Tell the Difference

A woman lost in a forest

Memory Lapse or Dementia? 5 Clues to Help Tell the Difference

It is normal to have occasional memory slips; after all, it’s all part of the aging process. Keep in mind that stress, lack of sleep, and medication side effects can hinder memory and interfere with memory recall. 

This is why it’s essential to live a healthy lifestyle by getting plenty of rest, eating healthy, meditating, and exercising. Don’t forget to take a healthy brain supplement from Vivolor Therapeutics that contains quality ingredients that can help improve memory and potentially delay cognitive decline.

Why not invest in your brain health as soon as possible?  It is never too early. Having many of the chronic diseases in your 40’s and 50’s can increase your risk of dementia in your 60’s, 70’s or 80’s. Don’t wait until the memory loss has advanced to dementia to take action!

With that in mind, here are five clues to help tell the difference between memory lapse and dementia.

Related: What Is Mental Acuity? How a Healthy Lifestyle can Influence Memory Loss

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a group of symptoms that affect memory, social abilities, and interferes with your daily life. Dementia is a horrible disease and encompasses a variety of conditions. 

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.  The risk of dementia increases dramatically with age. In fact, age is the largest risk factor!  Symptoms of memory loss often get worse slowly and gradually over time.

Dementia vs. Alzheimers: What’s the Difference?

Even though dementia and Alzheimer’s are very similar, and the words are sometimes used interchangeably, they are different.

Dementia is both the name of a group of symptoms and is also the name for a broad category of neurodegenerative diseases.  All types of dementia include memory loss and problems with reasoning, planning, and judgment that impact daily living and the ability to care for oneself.  

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.  Other types also exist like vascular dementia or Lewy Body dementia. These have additional specific diseases implicated in the cause of that dementia.  Vascular dementia is caused by impaired blood flow to the brain. This can result from strokes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Lewy body dementia is a complication of Parkinson’s disease.  Protein deposits called Lewy Bodies develop in the nerve cells in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory, and movement. Alzheimer’s is not specifically tied to another disease in the same way these dementias are, despite the fact that a very long list of diseases contributes to increased risk of Alzheimer’s. 

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Do You Keep Losing Things?

Memory Lapse

It’s normal to misplace things on occasion. This can happen on a busy morning when we accidentally leave the cereal in the refrigerator. It’s not unusual to put items in the wrong spot and to catch yourself making that mistake.  You might retrace your steps to find your keys in the mailbox since you were distracted and thinking about something else when getting your mail.

Dementia 

If you can’t figure out where the lost items might be put many things in unusual places, or even suspect that someone has stolen your possessions, that might be a sign of dementia.

Related: 9 Memory Training Techniques to Improve Cognitive Functioning

Are You Getting Lost in Familiar Places?

Memory Lapse 

Sometimes memory lapse does happen. For example, when you are driving around and get lost in your own thoughts and take a wrong turn. You may get lost in unfamiliar places and forget how to get back home.

Dementia 

If you are walking or driving for a long time without realizing that you are lost or have completely forgotten where you are and don’t ask for help, then that might be a sign of dementia. Those with dementia might forget how they got to the new location, get disoriented in a familiar place, or lose the ability to read a map or follow a landmark.

Do You Lose Track of Time or Dates?

A pocket watch up close

Memory Lapse 

Once in awhile, it’s normal to forget what day of the week it is, but usually, we can remember or quickly figure it out.

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Dementia 

Not knowing what day it is, time of the day, or how much time has passed is a significant problem and indicates possible dementia. When someone is unable to remember appointments despite putting them on the calendar or have received numerous reminders from family members, then this might be a sign of dementia.

Are Your Conversations Getting Stalled?

Memory Lapse 

We all went through a situation where we have difficulty finding the right word. That’s completely normal, and it does happen more as we get older.

Dementia 

It’s not normal if you have extreme difficulty remembering words, call people by the wrong name, can’t remember names of people you see often and know that you know their name, call items by the wrong word, and/or have significant social withdrawal. Those with progressively severe memory loss might stop talking in the middle of a conversation because they are at a loss for words. In fact, they may have more trouble joining, following, or continuing a conversation.  This may be because their processing speed has slowed and they can’t keep up with the conversation. When they do talk, it may be addressing something that was discussed many minutes ago, as they just can’t keep up.

Related: What Are The Negative Effects of Sugar On The Brain?

Are Memory Slip-Ups Starting to Affect Your Everyday Life?

Memory Lapse 

Forgetting the name of your friend’s dog is normal. We all have slip-ups here and there.

Dementia 

Those who forget how to balance their checkbook, pay the bills, shop for groceries, or care for themselves might be indicating that they have dementia.

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What Should You Do If You Expect Dementia?

Stethoscope on a chart

Whether or not you have dementia, it is essential to take care of yourself and the health of your brain.  If you suspect dementia, visiting a doctor is the best way to assess the level of memory loss. All levels of memory loss should be addressed by improving the health of your lifestyle.  But only a physician can adequately diagnose dementia. They will likely obtain a complete medical history, perform a physical exam and interview the patient with brain tests to assess cognitive performance. 

Keep in mind that some health conditions like thyroid problems, vascular stroke, and vitamin B12 deficiency may cause signs and symptoms of dementia. Thus additional bloodwork and imaging exams may be employed to help rule out these other conditions.

It is possible to get dementia as early as in your 50’s.  This would be called early onset dementia if dementia is diagnosed before age 65. The physician will ask how memory loss is impacting the patient’s life.  They may ask the partner or family member what they observe, as the family members are often more aware of changes that the patient themself is. Most physicians will look for an increase in the rate of memory decline and frequency of memory problems along with challenges in doing daily tasks as an indication of Alzheimer’s.

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Conclusion

Some amount of forgetting names, searching for words, or getting lost in unfamiliar surroundings is normal. After all, we are human, so mistakes do happen. However, as memory loss increases, it affects many aspects of life and eventually impairs daily living tasks. Essentially, the difference between memory loss and dementia is one of the degrees.  Dementia is severe memory loss and personality changes that are intruding on the ability to perform daily tasks.

Even minor memory issues can be distressing and cause a loss of confidence and questioning oneself. With dementia, searching for words, loss of muscle control, mood changes and inability to concentrate and process impacts almost every aspect of life.  Dementia is a debilitating disease where people often don’t even recognize their own family members consistently. Developing health habits such as eating green vegetables, reducing sugar, exercising, staying social, using your brain, reducing stress, getting enough sleep and taking powerful memory supplements like Vivolor Memory Support from Vivolor Therapeutics can help improve memory at any level of memory performance.

We hope these insights into differentiating between normal memory lapses and dementia will motivate you to take action now to ensure that your brain has a healthy, positive environment that supports you living a full, rich, memorable life.

Related: 15 Foods that Feed Your Brain and Boost Memory

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