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Forgetting Something? 6 Things Memory Loss Can Signify

by Stacy Lipson

It's normal for a loved one to become more forgetful as he or she ages. But how can a family member distinguish normal absent-mindness from something more serious? Don't panic. Here are six other common but treatable causes of memory loss, any one of which could be the culprit.

Singing the blues?
What it could be: Depression
Memory loss can be a sign of major depression. Dr. Majid Fotuhi, assistant professor of neurology at John Hopkins, says that patients with major depression can be forgetful and may have trouble initiating tasks or making decisions. “A patient suffering from depression exhibits a lack of attention and concentration,” says Fotuhi.

When To Call The Doc: If you have crying spells, a loss of interest in hobbies or friends, or excessive anxiety for three months or more.

Hyper Spaced

What it could be: Hypertension
Significant memory loss can be a signal of a common ailment: hypertension, or high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, signs of hypertension include headache, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, and chest pain. In a 2009 study from the journal Neurology, researchers also found that high blood pressure may contribute to memory loss in people 45 years of age or older.

When To Call The Doc: If you start displaying stroke-like symptoms such as memory loss and confusion.

Forgetful fatigue
What it could be: Thyroid disease
“Too little or too much thyroid activity can affect a person's ability to function regularly,” says Fotuhi. According to the Food and Drug Administration, an underactive or overactive thyroid can interfere with short-term memory. For instance, when you walk into a room and totally forget why you went in there.

When To Call The Doc: If you start experiencing aches and pains in your joints, neck tenderness, menstrual irregularities, memory loss, or constipation.

Booze Boggles the Brain
What it could be: Alcoholism
“Long-term alcohol abuse can affect memory,” says Dr. Eric Braverman, clinical assistant professor of integrative medicine at Cornell Weill Medical School in New York City. Over time, alcohol abuse kills brain cells and could impact memory. Sobering stat: Alcohol-related brain damage could cause between 10 and 24 percent of all cases of dementia, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.

When To Call The Doc: You crave alcohol or experience blackouts on a regular basis. You have difficulty concentrating and you experience memory problems after drinking.

Chemical Warfare
What it could be: Side Effects of Your Medication
“Side effects from medications could range from small to moderate,” says Dr. Kristoffer Rhoads, PhD, director of the Memory Clinic at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. According to Rhoads, there are over 120 prescription medications that could affect your memory. Most frequently, they include anti-depressants, cold and flu medications, and sleeping pills.

When To Call The Doc: If you notice any sudden changes in mood or behavior, or suffer from memory loss or confusion.

Flustered by Food?
What it could be: Nutritional deficiencies
Nutritional deficiencies can wreak havoc on the body. “Follow a balanced diet that includes some animal sources of protein,” says nutritionist Marissa Lippert, RD. “Beef, poultry dairy, eggs, and seafood are the best natural sources of B12.” Lippert also recommends if you follow a vegan diet, to get B12 from fortified sources such as wholegrain cereal, soy milk, and cheese.

According to a 2008 study published by the journal Neurology, the vitamin B12 found in meat, fish and milk may help stave off memory loss and perhaps even dementia in old age. According to the study, people with higher blood levels of vitamin B12 were six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage and dementia compared to those who had lower levels of vitamin B12.

When To Call The Doc: If you notice an immediate change in your digestive system, or suffer from a pre-existing condition such as Crohn's disease, you may be at risk for pernicious anemia, a blood disorder which decreases your blood cells due to a lack of vitamin B12.

6 Great Tips to Boost Memory
* Puzzle power: Brain activities like crossword puzzles or Sudoku can help keep your mind clear and focused.
* Lifelong learning: Stimulating mental activities like attending a lecture can aid in memory retention.
* Tea time: 4-5 cups of green tea a day can help boost memory. Studies have shown that green tea extracts improves cognition and spatial awareness in rats.
* Breathe out: Don't stress. Some of the most common memory zaps include stress and anxiety. Activities like reading or meditation can help your brain stay clear.
* Social butterfly: Maintain strong social ties through social groups to help preserve memory.
* Get moving: Daily exercise for half an hour a day such as walking or jogging can help improve memory.

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Wonderful article!
by chelsey min submitted on Sep 12, 2010



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