We’ve all had those moments. You forget a name. You lose your keys. You forget where your car is parked. And you immediately panic because you think your getting Alzheimer’s disease. It’s scary.
But don’t panic. There are actually lots of other causes for memory loss, and some of them might surprise you.
Medications can do a real number on your memory. If you experience memory loss, it could be because your dose of a particular medication is too high or too low and needs to be adjusted. There are also certain classes of drugs that are culprits of memory loss. According to the FDA, antihistamines, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, some painkillers, and sleeping pills all wreak havoc on your memory; so can diabetes medications like metformin, as well as cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins. The act of taking several medications, called polypharmy, can also cause memory issues because of the ways the drugs interact with each other.
Sleep is a vital part of human health, and most of us don’t get enough of it. But if you have sleep apnea, you might be experiencing memory problems. With sleep apnea, your breathing stops briefly during the night. Apnea sufferers have this happen many times throughout the night. As a result, you don’t get the deep sleep (rapid eye movement REM sleep) that is so important to your memory functions. Oxygen flow to your brain is interrupted when your breathing stops; for some patients, this happens hundreds of times each night. Over time, it can lead to memory loss and dementia because if it goes untreated, it affects your spatial navigational memory. This type of memory helps you remember where you put your keys or where you parked your car.
Stress, depression, and anxiety is associated with attention and memory deficits. If you’re wrestling with too many responsibilities, like job, kids, home life, relationships and others, and you’re stressed, you could begin to show physical manifestations of that stress, like memory problems. When chronic stress goes untreated, it generally leads to depression, which definitely affects normal brain function.
Some memory problems are caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12, a B vitamin essential for nerve function. People with marked B12 deficiencies can have confusion and even dementia. The normal dosage is 2.4 micrograms daily, which can be taken in a supplement or obtained from natural food sources like meat, fish or dairy foods. Other foods like cereals are fortified with B12, and it says so right on the box!
When someone has a major stroke, the changes in thinking and reasoning are very apparent. But many people suffer small “silent” strokes that are much less obvious. Mild symptoms of memory issues may develop gradually. They are called vascular cognitive impairment because the stroke has affected small blood vessels in the brain. Some of the vessels may have been blocked or blood flow may have been reduced, and over time, that has deprived the brain of oxygen. Forgetfulness could be an early warning sign, and people with memory loss are more susceptible for having a stroke.
Drug and alcohol abuse can both affect memory. Published studies show that people who drink heavily and abuse drugs exhibit signs of mental decline earlier in life than non-drinkers or non-drug users. Smoking also affects memory because it restricts the blood supply to your brain. Studies show that smokers have more memory decline than non-smokers, and smoking also causes abnormal proteins to accumulate in the brain, and that interferes with your ability to relay information.
Memory problems are a well-known symptom of thyroid diseases, whether your values are too high or too low.
As if hot flashes and sleepless nights weren’t enough, menopause can also cause memory problems because of all those sleepless nights.
In conclusion, the National Institute on Aging states that while patients may have similar symptoms, there are different kinds of memory loss that doctors can determine by examining the different parts of the brain and how they’re affected. If you’re concerned about your memory, and think that it is more than just occasional forgetfulness, share your concerns with your doctor.
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