Forgetfulness normal for middle-aged adults

When Joanne Nisker gets together with a group of middle-aged women, failing memory is a frequent topic of conversation.

When Joanne Nisker gets together with a group of middle-aged women, failing memory is a frequent topic of conversation.

“Being in meetings with women in their mid-40s and up, it’s a running joke,” says the 53-year-old volunteer and stepmother of three. “We all discuss it.”

Women may discuss it more than men, but forgetfulness affects all middle-aged adults. And real memory loss strikes greater fear in the hearts of aging boomers than physical ailments, experts say.

Busy lifestyles and hormonal changes can account for much of the benign absent-mindedness that’s common, such as forgetting something not written down or what it was you went upstairs to get in the first place.

Though little research has been done on those aged 30 to 60, “some cognitive abilities do start changing as early as … the early 30s,” says Angela Troyer, a psychologist at Baycrest, a Toronto geriatric health centre. Memory peaks around age 20, she says.

The brains of the middle-aged are not as well-studied as younger and older adults, partly because people of this age group are more difficult to get into the lab, says Cheryl Grady, a senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest.

But one study she led using functional MRI shows adults between 40 and 60 have changes in brain activity that make it difficult to switch focus. Our ability to turn down our “default mode,” the state we are in when our brains are just ruminating, diminishes. Previous studies have shown people over 65 definitely have difficulty doing it, but now there’s proof the effect begins in middle age, Grady says.

Other studies show changes in visual memory maps are detectable in our 50s.

Most changes are too minor to affect daily functioning, which is another reason for the lack of research with this age group. But that’s changing.

Some of it is spurred by complaints of women in perimenopause and menopause. Baycrest is raising $3 million to fund a research chair in women’s brain health and aging.

Research shows aging affects the brains of men and women equally.

“The hormonal changes in men are much slower than the abrupt changes in women, yet overall, cognitively, there are no differences in general,” says Susan Resnick, a senior investigator with the National Institute of Aging in Baltimore, who specializes in brain changes with aging and has a subspecialty in hormonal modulation with age-associated cognitive changes.

Just Posted

City of Red Deer gets ball rolling on annexing more land

”It’s important we look ahead,” says Mayor Veer

Walmart melding online and in-store shopping

South Red Deer Walmart recently underwent six months of renovations

Updated: Nature trail unveiled at RDC

Trail unveiling and tree planting honours Nova Chemicals $2 million donation

Video: Windows smashed at three Red Deer businesses

Red Deer RCMP arrest man after vandalism spree

Automated cars could kill wide range of jobs, federal documents say

OTTAWA — More than one million jobs could be lost to the… Continue reading

McGill research finds significant driving impairment 5 hours after cannabis use

MONTREAL — Driving under the influence of cannabis remains dangerous even five… Continue reading

Family: Remembering the important things

It seems so much of life is work and routine and then… Continue reading

Canada gets into Women’s World Cup with 7-0 win over Panama

FRISCO, Texas — Christine Sinclair isn’t concerned about chasing records. She’s set… Continue reading

Baldwin urges ‘overthrow’ of Trump government via voting

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Actor Alec Baldwin followed up his latest parody portrayal… Continue reading

Prince Harry and Meghan expecting their 1st child in spring

CANBERRA, Australia — Prince Harry and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex,… Continue reading

Sears files for Chapter 11 amid plunging sales, massive debt

NEW YORK — Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, buckling… Continue reading

Doctors to debate medical pot as more patients expected to ask for prescriptions

VANCOUVER — Doctors with opposing views on whether medical marijuana should be… Continue reading

Most Read