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19, June 2023

Memory Matters: Distinguishing Forgetfulness from Alzheimer's

Our memory plays a crucial role in determining our ability to acquire knowledge and understand things. This is primarily because it allows us to retain and recall our past experiences and use them in our present. Our memory also makes it possible for us to maintain continuity between the past, present and future. However, sometimes, you may find it hard to remember things and experiencing this can be quite overwhelming at times, especially when you are trying to recall an important date, event or any other vital information. Does this mean that something is wrong with your memory? 

Yes, it could be possible and it is pertinent to note that there are several different factors that may be responsible for it. In this blog, we have pointed out 2 of the most common of these - Forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s, which are often confused with one another, unless a proper diagnosis is made.

Distinguishing Between for Get Fulness and Alzheimer’s 

Forgetfulness refers to the inability to remember things, which simply means that one keeps on forgetting. The problem is short-term, temporary and usually a result of absent-mindedness, lack of sleep, work overload, stress, anxiety, certain medication, sedentary lifestyle, fatigue, heavy drinking, or an underlying medical condition like underactive thyroid or depression. Forgetfulness also comes with ageing, and this is the reason why the elderly are most likely to lose their glasses or find it difficult to learn new things.

Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a serious neurological condition marked by the progressive degeneration of a person’s memory. It is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 70 per cent of all 55,000,000+ cases reported worldwide. Alzheimer’s not only affects memory but may also have a drastic impact on a person’s thinking and behaviour, making it difficult for them to lead a normal life. 

What Causes Alzheimer’s?

Unlike forgetfulness, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of ageing as it can affect yonder people as well. However, age-related changes, when combined with other factors, may be responsible for it. 
Experts have linked Alzheimer’s to the build-up of proteins around the brain cells, which lead to the development of plaque and tangles. The former is caused by the protein beta-amyloid, which tends to accumulate in the gaps between the neurons, and the latter is caused by the protein Tau, which tends to accumulate within the neurons. Although it is not known how these two exactly cause Alzheimer’s, it is believed that these can disrupt the flow of electrical signals between the neurons, eventually destroying these. 

Are You at Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s?

Neurologists have pointed out a list of factors that have been found to trigger changes that lead to Alzheimer’s. These include:

●    Ageing - Age is the most crucial factor as the risks of developing Alzheimer’s have been found to double after every 5 years, in people aged above 65. This, however, does not mean that the condition does not affect the younger population. The incidence ratio of Alzheimer’s in people below and above 65 has been estimated to be 1:20.
●    Family history - The genes you inherit from your parents could also be responsible for increasing your chances of developing Alzheimer’s, but, in this case, the risks are quite small. 
●    Down syndrome - The genetic abnormalities responsible for Down’s Syndrome are also known to promote the gradual build-up of amyloid plaques, which can cause Alzheimer’s.
●    Head trauma - People who’ve had severe head trauma in the past also fall in the high-risk category. 

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s that you need to look out for:

Both forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s are marked by the inability to remember things, however, there are several other symptoms associated with the latter that may call for the need for immediate medical intervention. These include:

●    Lack of concentration
●    Difficulties in completing normal day-to-day tasks
●    Confusion with names, locations and time
●    Misplacing things every now and then 
●    Forgetting familiar places 
●    Experiencing visual or space difficulties
●    Lack of proper judgement
●    Social withdrawal 
●    Unusual changes in behaviour and personality

If you, or someone you know, have been experiencing any of these symptoms, get in touch with an expert for proper evaluation and to plan your course of treatment. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, timely diagnosis and treatment can help to ensure a better quality of life for the patient. 

Dr Aaksha Shukla By -Dr Aaksha Shukla | June 19, 2023 | 9 Min Read

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