Forgetting things from time to time is normal. It has happened to all of us to leave our keys, not remember where we have parked the car, not finding our glasses, forgetting someone’s name or missing a date designated as a birthday.
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We all go through moments when we forget the title of a movie, we have it on the tip of our tongue but it does not come out. It is estimated that a 56% of the information that we receive is forgotten after one hour, 66% after one day and 75% after six days.
The brain, despite its valuable work, has a limited capacity to store and remember details, which causes us to have little forgetfulness. How can we differentiate between simple slips of something that can be more serious? What’s normal and what is not?
When forgetfulness is normal
There are forgetfulness and forgetfulness. They are not all the same. For Daniel Shater, professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of the book “The Seven Sins of Memory”, the normal forgetfulness that we can have are:
- Transience: refers to the tendency we have to forget things over time. This usually happens because memory remembers the most recent information we use; the one that doesn’t, discards it.
- Distraction: It usually happens when we do not pay much attention to what we are doing. We forget, for example, what we were going to look for in the fridge or where we left the car keys. This may be a sign that the brain did not fix the details probably because we were distracted.
- Blocking: temporary inaccessibility of stored information, such as tip-of-the-tongue syndrome.
- Wrong attribution: it is possible that we remember part of an event, but not all, it usually happens that we remember an event but partially, not in its entirety. We may forget, for example, the place where it was held.
- SuggestionEverything we remember is subject to suggestion, which means that something we learn can change the way we remember it some time later.
- Prejudice: the person’s own experience influences how he remembers certain episodes in his life.
- Persistence: sometimes the opposite of the fear of forgetting can happen and it happens that we cannot forget something that we would like to do. In many cases these are traumatic events and negative experiences.
Stress, having a very busy day, lack of sleep, and even taking some medications are factors that can interfere with the creation and retrieval of certain memories.
When to worry about forgetfulness
In most cases, forgetting how to lose your keys is not a sign of anything serious. The problem is when memory lapses interfere with daily tasks like paying bills, brushing teeth, or getting dressed, or if we forget something routine. It is important to look for a persistent change in our ability to think and function.
With age it is normal for memory losses to occur, such as forgetting the name of a person that we see from time to time. It is part of the expected changes with aging in some people. As noted above, losing keys from time to time does not interrupt your ability to perform any other task normally.
But there are forgetfulnesses to which we must pay attention and it is advisable to go to the doctor so that he can rule out dementia problems such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Some of the most obvious are:
- Put objects in places that do not belong to themAlthough sometimes it can be normal to put a box of cookies in the fridge, it is also normal to reconsider and find it again. It is not, on the other hand, to be unable to find out where they are and to think that it is the others who hide it.
- Asking the same questions over and over or forget common words when speaking.
- Forgetting the name of someone we see frequently, every day.
- Not remembering the route or the way to get to a place we usually go to on a regular basis.
Studies have shown that people who exercise, stay mentally active, socialize regularly, and eat a healthy diet can minimize memory loss.
It should be noted that cognitive decline does not have to be a part of aging, as confirmed by one study published in Lancet Neurology. After evaluating hundreds of studies, experts have determined that up to half of all Alzheimer’s cases are related to modifiable risk factors such as obesity, depression or cognitive inactivity.
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