How to spot age-related memory loss

Image 1 of 3

We have all had senior moments. Neurologist Dr. Marshall Nash, who researches treatments for age-related memory loss through his company NeuroStudies in Decatur, Georgia, says it is not unusual to forget minor details, especially if we are distracted.

"Everyone has these points, where they forget things," Dr. Nash says. "(They) forget appointments, forget holidays, forget birthdays, and some of that is normal."

Dr. Nash says men tend to lose about 10 percent of their memory in their sixties and seventies, and women typically lose about 10 percent of theirs in their seventies and eighties. The best barometer of whether your memory is slipping, Nash says, is someone who knows you well.

"You simply ask the people around you, 'Do you think my memory is off,'" Dr. Nash says. "Ask them, 'Am I repeating myself? Am I forgetting things? Am I doing things that don't make sense to you?'"

There are a few red flags of a problem.

"My first signs are, 'Do you leave your keys in the refrigerator? Do you leave your keys or phone in the refrigerator, where you can't find them? Do you leave the stove on? Do you leave your car running?'" Dr Nash says.

The good news is, he says, is most memory loss is not Alzheimer's disease.

"That's the important thing for people to get," Dr. Nash says. "Most declines are related to the medicines people take, people's mood, psychiatric issues, or psychological issues."

So, if your memory seems to be slipping, tell your doctor, who can run some tests to rule out a medical issue.

"If we do a basic blood panel and find out you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, we can fix that," Nash says. "We can fix thyroid disease. All those things lead to memory loss."

Even if you do ultimately need to be screened memory loss, or join a clinical study, like the ones Dr. Nash conducts, there is still a chance you will not have a more serious problem

"I would say the vast majority of people we see don't have Alzheimer's but have another fixable, treatable problem that we can address," Dr. Nash says.