A forgotten appointment, misplaced keys, or struggling to find the correct word during a conversation…some people might chock these incidents up to simple absentmindedness. For those in middle age or older however, episodes of forgetfulness can be scary, conjuring worries of Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Fortunately, according to the National Institute on Aging, memory loss is often treatable once a cause has been established. Becoming better informed can help people determine whether their forgetfulness is cause for concern.
Memory loss can strike at any time in life and is influenced by many factors. Here are some of the key causes:
Memory loss accompanied by headache and recurrent daytime fatigue may be related to sleep apnea. This condition causes breathing to stop for brief but frequent periods in the course of a night. Research shows that untreated sleep apnea can impair spatial navigational memory, which is the type utilized to locate objects like keys.
Some medications can impact memory and may need adjustment. These include:
- Medications for anxiety
- Medications for diabetes
- Medications for pain
- Medications for reducing cholesterol
- Sleeping pills
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Because vitamin B12 is important for healthy nerve function, a deficiency can result in confusion, memory loss, and other dementia-like symptoms. Good food sources of vitamin B12 include dairy products, poultry, beef, and fish. To ensure proper daily amounts, people can also obtain vitamin B12 through dietary supplements.
Anxiety, Depression, and Stress
High levels of anxiety or stress can affect attention, focus, and memory, particularly when paired with sleep problems. Techniques like yoga, meditation, guided imagery, or tai chi can help manage stress and improve sleep.
If left untreated, chronic anxiety can lead to depression, which can also impact memory. According to the National Institute on Aging, people can try certain types of medication and/or counseling to ease symptoms of depression.
Sometimes people have a stroke without being aware of it. While a silent stroke doesn't exhibit any of the normal symptoms, it does cause changes in brain function, which can affect cognition and memory. Vascular cognitive impairment from silent stroke can range from mild to severe.
Tips for Preventing Memory Loss
According to a study from the School of Medicine at UCLA, healthy lifestyle strategies can have a beneficial effect on memory and cognition. Take advantage of these tips to help prevent memory loss.
- Don't use tobacco products.
- Eat a nutritious diet, and drink plenty of water.
- Get regular physical exercise.
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women.
- Manage stress levels.
- Get enough sleep.
- Exercise the brain with word, number, or jigsaw puzzles.
- Boost brain power by reading books, learning a new language, or taking up a musical instrument.
People with concerns about forgetfulness should consult with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis. Sharing symptoms and submitting to any required testing can help doctors determine what's causing your memory loss. A few beneficial lifestyle strategies help to promote a healthy brain and a strong memory.