Everyone forgets things. It’s a natural part of getting older. Maybe you can’t remember someone’s name, where you put your keys or if you locked the front door. But forgetting how to make change, use the telephone or find your way home may be a sign of a more serious problem such as mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.What can cause memory loss?
Anything that affects cognition—the process of thinking, learning and remembering—can affect memory. Causes of memory loss, some of which can occur together, include medications, alcohol, stress, depression, head injury, thyroid dysfunction, lack of sleep, nutritional deficiencies and the normal aging process. Luckily, memory slips caused by many of these conditions can be helped.Questions to consider
Memory lapses are usually just signs of a normal brain that’s always doing something—prioritizing, sorting, storing and retrieving all kinds of information. So how do you know if your memory loss should be checked out? Ask yourself these questions:
- Is memory loss preventing you from doing activities that you once had no trouble handling, like balancing a checkbook, keeping up with personal hygiene or driving?
- Are you forgetting the same things every day or over and over?
- Do you forget whole conversations or the names of close friends or relatives?
- Are you repeating yourself or asking the same questions?
- Are you getting lost in once-familiar places or putting things in unusual places because you can’t remember where they go?
Try these tips to reduce your risk of developing memory problems and to prevent so-called senior moments:
- Stimulate. Regular physical activity helps maintain blood flow to the brain. To keep your brain in shape, find an activity that you enjoy, such as walking, biking or swimming, and do it daily.
- Make friends. Social interaction can help reduce stress and fight loneliness, both of which have been linked to an increased risk of dementia.
- Challenge yourself. Keep your brain active and sharpen brain cells by reading, writing, learning a new skill, playing games and gardening.
- Sleep. Getting enough shut-eye will fight fatigue, which affects memory and concentration at any age. If you snore and feel drowsy the next day, you may have sleep apnea, a condition in which you stop breathing briefly several times a night. Interrupted breathing robs the brain of oxygen and can affect your memory.
- Slow down. Multitasking makes it harder to process details because your memory circuits become overloaded. If you have too much on your mind, slow down and focus on the task at hand.
- Relax. If you’re drawing a blank on something, give yourself a few minutes for it to come to you. Worrying about not remembering will only increase your stress.
- Take notes. Keep a list or a journal in which you write down appointments. Carry it with you to help you keep track of what you need to do, when and where.
- Designate. Give everything a place, like always putting your glasses on the nightstand, to help you keep a familiar routine.