What Causes Memory Loss?

What Causes Memory Loss?

It is normal to experience some memory loss as you get older, but it’s important to recognize the severity of the problem. It’s normal, for example, to forget where you put your keys or whether your locked the front door. With age, though, these “senior moments” could include mis-remembering an event from the past or forgetting the name of an acquaintance. This is called age-associated memory impairment.

A more serious type of memory loss, called mild cognitive impairment, could include forgetting to go to appointments or having difficulty coming up with words. This level of memory loss is not a natural part of aging and should be discussed with a doctor.

What is memory loss?

Memory loss, also known as amnesia or amnestic syndrome, refers to an unusual degree of forgetfulness and/or loss of ability to recall past events, facts and information.

What are the causes of the disorder?

For normal memory in a person, different parts of a brain are involved.
Whether it's occasional forgetfulness or loss of short-term memory that interferes with daily life, there are many causes of memory loss.

Some medications can cause memory loss as a side effect, and it tends to happen more in older people. A number of prescription and over-the-counter medications can interfere with or cause loss of memory. Possible culprits include: antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and pain medications given after surgery.

Lack of sleep. Both quantity and quality of sleep are important to memory. Sleep helps your brain store memories. Getting too little sleep or waking frequently in the night can lead to fatigue, which interferes with the ability to consolidate and retrieve information.
The goal is to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. And a lack of sleep is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alcohol, tobacco, or drug use. Excessive alcohol use has long been recognized as a cause of memory loss. Smoking harms memory by reducing the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain. Studies have shown that people who smoke find it more difficult to put faces with names than do nonsmokers. Illicit drugs can change chemicals in the brain that can make it hard to recall memories.

Depression and stress. Being depressed can make it difficult to pay attention and focus, which can affect memory.  Stress and anxiety can also get in the way of concentration. When you are tense and your mind is overstimulated or distracted, your ability to remember can suffer. Stress caused by an emotional trauma can also lead to memory loss.

Nutritional deficiency. Good nutrition -- including high-quality proteins and fats -- is important to proper brain function. Deficiencies in vitamin B1 and B12 specifically can affect memory.

Head injury. A severe hit to the head -- from a fall or automobile accident, for example -- can injure the brain and cause both short- and long-term memory loss. Memory may gradually improve over time.

Stroke. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is stopped due to the blockage of a blood vessel to the brain or leakage of a vessel into the brain. Strokes often cause short-term memory loss. A person who has had a stroke may have vivid memories of childhood events but be unable to recall what he or she had for lunch.

Dementia. Dementia is the name for progressive loss of memory and other aspects of thinking that are severe enough to interfere with the ability to function in daily activities. Although there are many causes of dementia -- including blood vessel disease, drug or alcohol abuse, or other causes of damage to the brain -- the most common and familiar is Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is characterized by a progressive loss of brain cells and other irregularities of the brain.

Inflammation could be tied to Alzheimer's:
Chronic brain inflammation is often seen in people with this type of dementia. Scientists don’t yet understand exactly how that works, but inflammation may play an active role in the disease. Experts are studying whether anti-inflammatory medicine will curb Alzheimer’s. So far, the results are mixed.

Other possible causes of memory loss include an under-active or overactive thyroid gland and infections such as HIV, tuberculosis, and syphilis that affect the brain.

Finding the Cause of Memory Loss

If you find that you are increasingly forgetful or if memory problems interfere with your daily life, schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause and best treatment.

Memory Loss Treatment

Treatment for memory loss depends on the cause. In many cases, it may be reversible with treatment. For example, memory loss from medications may resolve with a change in medication.
Nutritional supplements can be useful against memory loss caused by a nutritional deficiency. And treating depression may be helpful for memory when depression is a factor.
In some cases -- such as following a stroke -- therapy may help people remember how to do certain tasks such as walking or tying shoes. In others, memory may improve over time.

Treatments may also be specific to conditions related to memory loss. For example, drugs are available to treat memory problems related to Alzheimer's disease, and drugs to help lower blood pressure can help reduce risk of more brain damage from dementia related to high blood pressure.

What can we do to improve our memory?

  • Give your brain a workout
  • Don’t skip the physical exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Make time for friends
  • Keep stress in check
  • Have a laugh
  • Maintain a brain-boosting diet
  • Take supplements to help improve memory
  • Identify and treat health problems
  • Take practical steps to support learning and memory

So..... break out a puzzle, any kind. Not only will they provide hours of fun, but they will sharpen your mind too.

Source : WebMd.com
Image Source: lifeboat.com

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