How to Identify Normal Memory Lapses

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How to Identify Normal Memory Lapses
Credit: iStock.com/MangoStar_Studio

Remember the last time you forgot where you parked, or drew a blank when having to name your daughter’s new boyfriend? It was probably pretty embarrassing at the time.

Maybe it even prompted you or a loved one to mention the D-word—dementia. But let me assure you, those memory lapses fall well within the “normal” range of mental hiccups. (You’ll also be relieved to know that there’s a particularly sweet way to boost your brain power! But more on that part later.)

Look; it’s completely natural for your memory to fade a bit with age. This is the kind of thing that happens when you form countless memories. You need make room for the new ones, or devote more space to the memories you need to frequently recall.

So, forgetting where you parked because you were focused on chatting with your granddaughter when you turned off the ignition—or not remembering a name momentarily—is surely nothing to be concerned about.

What Are “Normal” Memory Lapses?

So what’s “normal forgetfulness?” There are actually a number of memory lapses common in everybody at virtually any age that just happen a little more with age.

They include:

  • The tendency to forget facts or events over time: This is normal because, again, you need to get rid of certain things to make space for newer and more pertinent information. So when you don’t really need to remember something, it’s more likely that you will forget it.
  • Absentmindedness as a result of just not paying much attention: If you’re thinking about how hungry you are, for example, you might not remember you put the remote down in the fridge when you reached in to pull out last night’s leftovers.
  • Inopportune “brain farts”: There’s nothing more frustrating than being asked a question and not being able to get the answer out. And it’s not that you don’t know it—it’s on the tip of your tongue. But it just won’t escape your lips. This is called “blocking,” and it’s completely normal. Thankfully, this brief inability to recall a memory usually only lasts about a minute.

Other factors can also play a role in the clouding of memories, and it has largely to do with the introduction of new information, perception, and personal bias.
For example, your memory of a specific event may change based on information you’ve learned about it since it happened, either through reading, television, or discussion. This could lead you to remember things you didn’t actually experience. Conversely, your memory of the same event may differ from someone else’s based on your own bias and perception. In any event, both cases are entirely normal!

A Sweet Remedy for “Normal Forgetfulness”

If you experience these blips on occasion, it’s likely nothing to worry about and not a sign of something bigger like dementia or Alzheimer’s. That said, it’s always recommended to find ways to help preserve memory and brain function. And if you like chocolate, I’ve got some great news for you!

A recent scientific review found that antioxidant-rich cocoa leaves could help older adults pay attention and improve information processing speed, verbal fluency, and working memory. The results were especially notable in those with mild cognitive decline or other memory troubles, which is both surprising and exciting.

The review also found that dark chocolate not only led to acute improvements in brain function after eating, but also that continued consumption resulted in long-term benefits. Eating between 25 and 40 grams of dark chocolate per day (about 200 calories) could help you take advantage of these benefits!

Though there’s more research to compile, the future is looking pretty sweet for your memory and overall brain health.



Sources
Socci, V., “Enhancing Human Cognition with Cocoa Flavonoids,” Frontiers in Nutrition, Published online 2017 May 16. DOI:  10.3389/fnut.2017.00019.
Patel, K., “Cocoa Extract,” Examine, 2017; https://examine.com/supplements/cocoa-extract/, last accessed July 31, 2017.
“Forgetfulness — 7 types of normal memory problems,” Harvard Health Publications, 2017; http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/forgetfulness-7-types-of-normal-memory-problems, last accessed July 31, 2017.

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