Lately, I have been noticing that my memory isn't what it used to be. I decided to consult the symptom checker on Web MD.

There are many possible reasons for memory loss. One BIG one is old age. Yes, I am getting older. But, I didn't want to blame my almost-73 years for my brain lapses. So, I investigated some other possible culprits.

Seems to me that I have MCI - mild cognitive impairment. Now, that's an ailment that encapsulates my symptoms.

About 20 percent of all people over the age of 65 experience MCI. It is incurable and can't be reversed. It causes subtle changes in one's mental ability. It can be the precursor to more serious problems, such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

When I go to the mall or another large parking lot, I must pay close attention to where I park the car. If I don't, I can walk around the lot searching for quite a while. It is humbling, frightening, and frustrating. So, I park, get out of the car, and make a note of my surroundings. I check the closest building and recognize a symbol that is close to my row. That way, when I exit, I can find my car more easily.

Losing your car in a big parking lot is a symptom of MCI. Not knowing why you drove to the mall in the first place is a symptom of a much more serious disease.

Forgetting where you parked your car is just one symptom of MCI. Others could be - repeating stories over and over, having trouble remembering how to use small appliances, finding yourself disoriented in familiar spots, a decreased sense of direction, difficulty managing money, and misplacing items. Luckily, I have not progressed in this malady to include any of the other symptoms. (Although my husband might disagree about handling money!)

Some of the possible causes of MCI (besides old age) are: a reaction to medication, metabolic problems (such as thyroid disease), nutritional deficiency, an infection, subdural hematoma or brain tumor, poison in the system, anoxia (lack of oxygen), or heart/lung disorder.

In reality, I honestly believe that I have had MCI for many years. I think my brain was overworked and tried to hold too many items. The poor thing got overloaded and sometimes "shorted out."

All of these modern women who talk about "multitasking" know exactly what I mean. Trying to work full-time, raise a child, do housework, study, cook, and find time to relax?? That's a recipe for MCI if I've ever heard of one.

What can we do to help ourselves? Well, experts say that doing puzzles- such as Sudoku or crosswords - and playing games can sharpen the mental processes. Also, getting plenty of rest, eating nutritious foods (especially dark greens like kale), doing yoga or meditation, taking some vitamin supplements (especially the B vitamins), and writing things down to jog your memory are all positive steps to take.

I know that someone in my family had dementia. It scares me that it might be hereditary. But, being forewarned is being forearmed. I do puzzles daily, take B vitamins, keep a daily schedule and write everything down, and reinforce my logistics by paying attention. I'm certain that - with the proper self-awareness and care - MCI and I can survive each other.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTCT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.