Over the years, short-term memory worsens, is a normal consequence of the aging process. Losses are more frequent, it is difficult to retain new information and forgetting is part of the daily routine, so many people are worried thinking that is one of the signs of dementia.
However, only when memory problems are much more severe may indicate the development of some form of dementia, a neurodegenerative process that first erases our ability to fix new information and then the memories of a lifetime.
Unfortunately, dementia is a common disease. The WHO indicates that in the world, 50 million people suffer from dementia and every year 10 million new cases are registered. Staying active intellectually helps us to prevent this problem or, at least, delay its appearance. However, there is a characteristic that significantly reduces the risk of suffering from dementia: we must realize that our memory is getting worse.
For some time, doctors suspected that people who ignore their memory problems are at a higher risk of suffering from dementia, but so far it has only been clinical observations.
Now researchers from McGill University in Montreal, provide new evidence to support this hypothesis. They recruited 450 people who suffered from mild memory deficits and compared their experiences with the objective opinions of friends and family, to confirm the degree of self-awareness regarding the real quality of their memory.
Two years later, they discovered that people who ignored their memory problems had three times more risk of developing a form of dementia. Those who were unaware of their memory difficulties showed a worse neurological state: they had a metabolic dysfunction at the brain level and more amyloid proteins, the plaques related to the onset of Alzheimer.
In fact, the anosognosia, which literally means “ignorance of the disease”, is one of the typical symptoms of dementia and other neurological problems in which the person does not realize that suffers a deficit since the organic damage prevents developing the perception of what is happening.
How to develop awareness?
There are different ways to develop awareness, one of the most effective is to practice mindfulness meditation. In fact, one of the main goals of mindufulness is to develop a full consciousness.
Researchers from Harvard University and Justus Liebig-University analyzed the impact of mindfulness meditation and discovered that, effectively, it causes changes at the brain level, especially in areas related to self-awareness, body representation and managing of emotions.
Mindfulness meditation will help you have more control over your mind and better tune in to the signals your body sends. It triggers a series of positive changes in the perception of the “self” that will allow you to be more alert about the emotional and physical changes you’re experiencing, so it will help you prevent dementia. In fact, many therapeutic programs to stop the advance of memory loss resort precisely to mindfulness meditation.
Therriault J, et. Al. (2018) Anosognosia predicts default mode network hypometabolism and clinical progression to dementia. Neurology. Gotink, R. A. et. Al. (2016) 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction induces brain changes similar to traditional long-term meditation practice – A systematic review. Brain and Cognition; 108: 32–41. Hölzel, B. K. et. Al. (2011) How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science; 6(6): 537-559.