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Brain Image Gallery

Finding out what shape your memory is in should be the first step in trying to improve it. See more brain pictures.

Publications International Ltd.

Have you ever walked out of a mall and completely forgotten where you parked? Gone to the store and not been able to remember what you went there to buy? Walked into a room and forgot why you were there? "Lost" a key word while telling a joke?

If these things happened to you at age 20, you probably didn't think a thing about it. At 40, you may begin to worry about having "senior moments" or approaching menopause. Perhaps you start thinking about using supplements to boost your memory. At 60, many people begin to panic at such memory gaps and worry: "Could this be the first sign of Alzheimer's disease?"

The older you get, the more likely you'll worry about memory problems -- and the more you worry about them, the more you'll notice each and every slip-up. Odds are you forgot quite a lot of things when you were in your teens or twenties, but you never paid any attention to those lapses. The fact is, the more you expect to have memory problems, the more you'll notice them.

­But forgetting where you parked or where you left personal items is most often completely normal. It's known as "everyday forgetting," and it's so common because it involves things we do every day and usually don't spend too much time paying attention to.

Of course, while most of us experience everyday forgetting quite often, a few people have a true organic problem with memory that is not normal. How do you tell the difference between "normal" forgetting and a more serious problem with memory?

On the next page, take a test to determine the state of your memory.