If you have trouble remembering certain things, your mind may jump to Alzheimer’s disease, but that’s not the only cause of memory loss.
You can’t find your keys or you may have forgotten an appointment. For many middle-aged and older people, simple oversights like this are frightening because they raise the specter of Alzheimer’s disease. But Alzheimer’s disease isn’t the only health condition that can lead to memory loss. Memory loss can occur at any age and for a number of reasons. And when the underlying cause is treated, memory problems often get better too. For example, it is common for people to still have the ability to learn and store information, but due to the overload of their mental resources at this time in their lives, they have difficulty doing it properly” , says Dr. Gale.
Talk to your doctor about your concerns about your memory, so that the condition causing your symptoms can be treated. By discussing your symptoms and taking various tests, possibly including an MRI, your doctor can determine what is affecting your memory.
In some cases, one or more of the following issues could play a role:
1. Stress, anxiety and depression
Severe stress or anxiety can lead to problems with attention and memory. This phenomenon is particularly common among people who juggle family and professional responsibilities and who do not sleep well. In general, alleviating stress can improve memory. According to a May 2022 study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, chronic untreated stress can lead to depression, which could also affect brain function, including certain measures of memory. However, a mood disorder such as depression can improve with medication and counseling.
2. Sleep problems
Sleep problems, including insomnia, or the chronic inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, as well as sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing stops briefly and frequently during night, have been linked to memory loss and dementia. Lack of sleep leads to fatigue which, in turn, can lead to brain fog and memory problems.
In a May 2022 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, people with insomnia and sleep apnea were less likely to perform well on tests meant to measure memory, compared to people who didn’t. not having these conditions.
When left untreated, sleep apnea affects spatial navigation memory, according to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. This type of memory includes the ability to remember directions and where you put things, like your keys. One explanation is that for people with sleep apnea, the oxygen supply to the brain is interrupted hundreds of times throughout the night. The brain is stressed by this interruption in the supply of oxygen, and people wake up. The lesions caused by sleep apnea can manifest as various symptoms of memory loss.
Memory loss or forgetfulness may be a sign that your medications need to be adjusted. Several types of medications can affect memory, including:
medications for anxiety
medicines for epileptic seizures
Medications for blood pressure
Medicines to lower cholesterol
Drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease
Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins may slightly increase the risk of reversible cognitive side effects, including memory loss and confusion.
4. Nutritional deficiency
A deficiency in B12, one of the B vitamins essential for normal nerve function, can lead to confusion and even dementia. Adults should consume about 2.4 micrograms of B12 each day from foods such as dairy, meat, and fish, or foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals.
The risk factors for developing vitamin B12 deficiency are:
Be over 75 years old
Have a digestive system disorder
follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet
taking certain medications, including metformin, proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers (both of these medications reduce stomach acid) and birth control pills
have Sjögren’s syndrome
Drinking large amounts of alcohol
5. Silent Stroke
Obvious changes in the ability to think and move normally can result from a stroke that blocks major blood vessels that supply the brain. Mild memory problems can also appear gradually after “silent strokes”, or those that occur without any noticeable symptoms, which affect smaller blood vessels. These changes in brain function, which can range from mild to severe, are called vascular cognitive disorders. The brain is particularly vulnerable to blockage or reduced blood flow, which deprives it of oxygen and essential nutrients. People with memory loss are at greater risk of stroke. And forgetfulness can be a harbinger of cardiovascular disease, including stroke.
Less common causes of memory loss
Other conditions that can cause memory problems:
Memory loss can be attributed to a serious infection around the brain, especially if left untreated. For example, some people with long COVID-19 have reported memory loss following an infection, according to Lyketsos.
Symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury can include confusion and trouble remembering and concentrating.
Memory and the ability to process information can be affected by brain tumours. Also, treatments for a brain tumor, such as brain surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, can all affect your memory.
Alcoholism and drug addiction
Both alcoholism and drug addiction can affect memory. A study published in April 2022 in the Journal of Translational Medicine found that heavy alcohol consumption in adults aged 70 and over increased the risk of cognitive impairment, compared to light drinkers and non-drinkers of the same age group.