Normal Ageing Vs Dementia: What’s the Difference?

While Alzheimer’s disease and other associated types of dementia are not a necessary feature of aging, it is undeniable that our brains change as we age. It’s possible to delay or prevent up to 40% of dementia occurrences. The first step is to stay informed and know what’s typical and what isn’t as we age. Let’s read about the difference between Normal Ageing Vs Dementia in this article.

Slower processing rates and difficulty multitasking may be signs of normal brain aging, but everyday memory, skills, and knowledge remain stable with age and can even get better. It’s normal to lose track of recent events once in a while, like where you placed your keys or the name of a new acquaintance.

Normal Ageing: Senior woman holding onto her cane, smiling at the camera

What Is Ageing?

Ageing is a normal part of life. Our bodies and brains slowly change as we get older. These changes negatively affect our physical and mental capacities and disease risk.

Everybody’s experience of ageing is unique. How we age and when those changes become more obvious are unique to the person experiencing them.

World Health Organization (WHO) believes everyone should be able to enjoy a long and healthy life. It is what is called healthy normal ageing.

What Affects My Normal Ageing Process?

Our environments and habits, in addition to genetics, affect how we age.
We can promote healthy ageing through various lifestyle choices, including mental exercise, a balanced diet, and physical and social activity.
Although these measures cannot ensure a disease-free old age, they are our best bets for reducing the likelihood of developing severe health problems and maximizing our quality of life.

Will My Memory Decline as I Get Older?

It is normal to get concerned about changes in our cognitive capacities as we age. We want to go about our daily lives, be able to take care of ourselves, and remember the best times of our lives without having to worry about our memories or, in particular, dementia.

Most of us won’t have any trouble remembering anything.

Most people’s memory will remain sharp as they become older

Our capacity to recall will not decrease quickly or significantly. What we’ve learnt throughout our lives will stay with us throughout old years.

Memory loss will affect some of us.

After the age of 65, about 40% of us will have some memory loss. However, there is still a low likelihood of dementia even if we forget some memories. Most of the time, our memory loss is slight enough that it doesn’t interfere with how we go about our daily lives.

A smaller percentage of us will get dementia.

According to the WHO, 5 to 8% of people over 60 will develop dementia. Dementia symptoms, which include memory loss, progressively develop to the point where we can no longer care for ourselves.

Why is there such a difference between the percentage of those with dementia and those with memory loss? 

Dementia: A senior man with a dispersing mind

The Different Degrees of Memory Loss

There are varying degrees of memory loss, not all attributed to dementia. So how can you tell them apart?

Age-related Memory Impairment

If you are having memory problems, but:

  • They are barely interfering with your daily activities.
  • They do not affect your ability to do things as usual.
  • You have no trouble learning and memorizing new information.
  • There is no underlying medical condition causing your memory impairments.

Then you have what is called “Age-related memory loss.”

Age-related memory loss is seen as a typical feature of normal ageing. It doesn’t necessarily mean dementia.

Dementia is not indicative of occasional forgetfulness like losing your keys, forgetting a website password, or the name of a college friend. You may not remember things as fast as you used to, but this is usually not a reason for concern.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) describes a spectrum of symptoms that range from normal ageing memory loss to dementia. As the name implies, the symptoms of MCI are moderate; you have memory loss and other symptoms like trouble speaking and disorientation, but they are not severe enough to interfere with your regular daily activities.

However, compared to people with age-associated memory impairment, people with MCI also have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Dementia

When your memory loss is severe enough that:

  • It affects your everyday life and capacity to follow your usual schedule.
  • You’re having difficulty learning new stuff.
  • Tasks that you’re familiar with are challenging for you to do.
  • Others around you are also noticing changes in your capabilities.

If so, you’re having memory problems similar to those experienced by people with dementia in their early stages.

Dementia affects 6.2 million people in the United States aged 65 and older, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most prevalent form of it. Dementia patients experience cognitive decline symptoms that interfere with everyday living, such as language, memory, attention, recognition, problem-solving, and decision-making disruptions. 

Normal Ageing Vs Dementia

Warning Signs: Watch Out for Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Inability to perform tasks without assistance
  • Having difficulty identifying items or close family members
  • Forgetting how things work
  • Asking questions over and over
  • Routine chores take a lot longer to finish
  • Frequent item misplacement
  • Losing your way and being unable to retrace your path

What Conditions Can Imitate Dementia?

A lack of vitamin B12, infections, hypothyroidism (when the thyroid doesn’t work as well as it should), and NPH (a neurological disorder that happens when fluid builds up in the brain) can all cause symptoms like dementia. 

Some prescription and OTC medications might induce Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. 

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it is critical to consult with your doctor to see whether there are any underlying causes.

Final Words

Our brain and body change as we age, affecting our physical and mental capabilities. Minor memory loss is a part of the normal ageing process. There is no need to worry about normal forgetfulness. And as said above, not every memory loss is linked with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Also, underlying medical conditions and some vitamin deficiencies can mimic dementia-like symptoms. 

However, suppose you feel your mental decline is severe enough to affect your daily life and notice the mentioned symptoms. In that case, you must make an appointment with your doctor and diagnose it immediately.

Are you or a loved one going through any of the symptoms? You can share it with others in the comments. 

Source CDC.gov Alzheimers.org.uk Alzheimer.ca
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