Washington, DC - Dementia, in general, and Alzheimer’s disease, in particular, have emerged as a clear and present danger for America’s aging population. And, this has many seniors scaring themselves every time they forget someone’s name, according to Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens.

“One of our members recently told me that his wife of 54 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years ago and finally asked her neurologist to check him out because he was becoming increasingly forgetful, himself. He did and, to his relief, he was diagnosed with a simple case of growing old. Indeed, as we grow older it is normal for us to forget simple things such as where you parked your car or you might have trouble coming up with the right words. It is not necessarily the onset of dementia,” says Weber.

“Nonetheless, it is a good idea to have yourself checked out. Self-diagnosis is not safe. Forgetting where you put your glasses is normal. Forgetting that you wear glasses just might be dementia."

The Alzheimer’s Association says the signs of abnormal memory loss include a new found inability to complete routine tasks such as paying bills, remembering appointments, making plans or solving problems. It’s time to see a doctor if you are experiencing these types of extreme forgetfulness on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, there are things that you can do to help sharpen your memory, according to the Mayo Clinic. In an article published on its Web site the Clinic suggests getting more physical exercise, doing things to remain mentally active, getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining a healthy diet.

The folks at the Mayo Clinic also point out that it is important to adopt an engaging social life, something that AMAC’s Weber says may be a particularly effective way of dealing with memory loss. He cites a recent study that shows social activity can reduce dementia risk by as much as 12% as we age.

The research was led by Andrew Sommerlad, Ph.D., at University College London in the U. K.  And, its findings “suggest a protective effect of social contact against dementia and that more frequent contact confers higher cognitive reserve.”

Harvard Medical School says “cognitive reserve is developed by a lifetime of education and curiosity to help your brain better cope with any failures or declines it faces.” It’s a concept that was first identified in 1982.

Essentially, researchers studied individuals who had no apparent symptoms of dementia while they were alive. But, when they died and were autopsied, it was discovered that their brains showed “changes consistent with advanced Alzheimer's disease. Since then, research has shown that people with greater cognitive reserve are better able to stave off symptoms of degenerative brain changes associated with dementia or other brain diseases.”