Memory Issue

Memory and aging

Memory is defined as “the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Our ability to remember and to recall our past is what links us to our families, our friends and our community.

As we age, subtle changes in memory occur naturally as part of the aging process. However, sometimes these changes occur sooner than anticipated or faster than expected. These changes often go unnoticed, but at other times can be disturbing to ourselves or others. There are a number of things that can cause problems with memory or make normal age-related changes worse. For example, sometimes changes in memory might be due to a medication side effect or an existing or developing health problem, such as depression, anxiety, sleep problems, heart disease, infections in the brain, brain tumor, blood clots, head injury, thyroid disease, dehydration, or vitamin deficiency. If this is the case, identifying and treating the condition can improve your memory.

However, when memory loss prevents us from performing daily tasks and our accustomed roles in life, it becomes a health concern that needs further evaluation by healthcare professionals.

Causes of Memory Loss

Many factors can cause memory loss. These factors include:

  • vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • sleep deprivation
  • use of alcohol or drugs and some prescription medications
  • anesthesia from recent surgery
  • cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, or bone marrow transplant
  • head injury or concussion
  • lack of oxygen to the brain
  • certain types of seizures
  • brain tumor or infection
  • brain surgery or heart bypass surgery
  • mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and dissociative disorder
  • emotional trauma
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • electroconvulsive therapy
  • transient ischemic attack (TIA)
  • neurodegenerative illnesses such as Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or Parkinson’s disease
  • migraine

Some of these conditions are treatable and, in some cases, memory loss can be reversed.

Dementia

Progressive memory loss is a symptom of dementia. Other symptoms include difficulty with reasoning, judgment, language, and thinking skills. People with dementia can also exhibit behavioral problems and mood swings. Dementia usually starts gradually and gets more noticeable as it progresses. Dementia can be caused by a variety of diseases, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease impairs memory and affects reasoning, judgment, and the ability to learn, communicate, and perform everyday functions. People with Alzheimer’s disease can quickly become confused and disoriented. Long-term memories are usually stronger and last longer than memories of recent events. Although it can strike earlier, this progressive disease generally affects people over age 65.