Memory loss is an inevitable and unavoidable part of growing old. If you find yourself forgetting names, dates, and appointments, it could be a sign that you’re getting older, but it could also be a sign of something more serious or even something seemingly unrelated.
In this guide, we’ll look at some of the most common symptoms of forgetfulness, helping you spot these symptoms in yourself and your loved one to determine if they are serious or not.
What are the Symptoms of Memory Loss?
If you find yourself suffering from the following memory loss symptoms on a regular basis, you may have an issue:
- Issues performing everyday tasks
- Struggling to remember important dates and times
- Problems expressing yourself
- Inability to find the right words and phrases
- Getting frequently frustrated
- Struggling with intellectual thoughts and conversations
- Constantly losing items
What are the Causes of Memory Loss?
Memory loss isn’t always a sign of dementia, but more often than not, it’s something that adversely impacts your life and something that is connected to a more serious health or lifestyle issue.
Forgetfulness becomes increasingly common as you age and is generally nothing to worry about. Provided those incidents are not adversely impacting your quality of life and you can recall them afterward and recite them to a healthcare professional, it’s probably nothing serious.
Medication, Drugs, and Alcohol
Short-term memory loss is a common side effect of numerous prescription medications and drugs, including those prescribed for anxiety, pain, insomnia, depression, and even hypertension.
Opiates are a great example of this. Not only do they sedate you to the point where you don’t pay attention to your surroundings, but they can also directly impact the way your brain stores and processes memories.
What’s concerning is that many seniors take medications that can cause memory loss and emulate the signs of dementia. In addition, researchers have found numerous medications that can increase the risk of dementia, including anti-depressants like amitriptyline and paroxetine and antihistamines like diphenhydramine.
Stress and Anxiety
Everyone has a little memory loss on occasion, and this is true for all ages. How many times have you walked into a room and forgotten why you were there? How many times have you forgotten a word, been late for an appointment, or lost your keys?
This kind of memory loss isn’t necessarily the result of a more serious condition, even if you’re experiencing it every day. Many times, it’s the result of high levels of stress and anxiety. The more anxious you are, the more your mind wanders and the less attention you pay to things like appointments or where you left your keys.
Stress releases cortisol as well, a hormone associated with memory loss and many other conditions.
Lack of Sleep
The less you sleep, the more prone you are to memory loss and other cognitive issues. Your brain needs energy to function properly and it gets that energy from food and sleep. Deprive it and you’ll suffer the consequences. Fortunately, these symptoms are easily resolved, just get more sleep!
Many seniors adopt the same sleeping patterns they had when they were younger, even though they worked more and were far more active in their youth. They assume they can survive on less sleep because that’s the way it has always been. As they age, though, they become more susceptible and may also be taking medications that cause fatigue and memory loss.
Sleep more, relax more, and eat better, and you should notice a significant improvement in your symptoms.
Trauma and Disease
Head trauma, underactive thyroids, strokes, and other serious health conditions can impact your memory and may lead to episodes of memory loss. If you recently took a knock to the head and are now suffering from memory loss that can be considered unusual and/or severe, you should speak with a medical professional.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment, or “MCI,” is a condition of memory loss that is more severe than normal, everyday forgetfulness, but typically less worrying than dementia. However, it needs to be monitored, as it could be an early sign of dementia and may progress into something worse.
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a series of conditions related to memory loss and cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease. It is a serious, degenerative, and untreatable condition, but one that presents in numerous forms and can be managed with proper care.
Some of the symptoms of dementia include:
- Regularly getting lost
- Constantly being distracted
- Losing items frequently
- Struggling to make decisions
- Forgetting common words and losing track in the middle of sentences
- Struggling to complete household chores
- Finding it difficult to pay bills
Forgetfulness or Dementia?
As you can see from the forgetfulness symptom checker above, there is a huge difference between dementia and everyday forgetfulness. Unless you have had experience with dementia, these differences may not be very obvious. In fact, it’s normal for children to be concerned about parents or grandparents just because they notice that they regularly misplace their keys or phone.
Generally, however, unless it’s seriously impacting their quality of life and they are unaware or unable to remember their memory loss episodes, it’s not something you need to be concerned about.
At the same time, if these incidents are becoming increasingly frequent, it doesn’t hurt to discuss them with a doctor.
Can You Prevent Cognitive Decline?
Your memory can be trained and the more active it is, the healthier it will be. It may not prevent dementia, but it could keep your memory stronger for longer and prevent daily incidences of memory loss.
Here are a few tips to keep your memory strong and your mind active:
- Complete puzzles and brain training games
- Play card games with friends
- Stay active, as good physical health can boost your mental health
- Get plenty of sleep and make sure you eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Keep a journal of your daily activities. Taking the time to write these things down will cement those memories in place