Memory Loss

Memory loss woman

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview

Aging is normally associated with numerous physiological and psychological complications. One common problem observed in elderly people (above 65 years of age) is “memory loss”. The degree of memory loss varies from one person to another and is often curable through proper diagnosis and therapeutic treatments. In a few cases, memory loss of serious nature occurs, which leads to serious clinical complications which are irreparable and irreversible. Although incidences of death due to memory loss are rare, chances of fatalities due to gradual degeneration of the brain cannot be totally eliminated. Hence adequate knowledge and proper care are required to handle the problem of memory loss.

 

What is memory loss?

Memory lossMemory loss refers to the inability to remember or recollect things that have happened in the recent or remote past.

It is often associated with gradual degeneration of brain neurons with age, leading to impairment and cognitive functions that lead to a decline in memory.

Normal functioning of memory includes four stages namely- information collection (from the surroundings), registration in the hippocampus (short-term memory), storage (conversion into long-term memory in the cerebral cortex), remembering (enables an individual to function on the basis of past experiences). Disruption in any of the four stages leads to memory loss conditions which might be permanent in nature.

 

Causes of memory loss

Memory loss is normally linked to old age. But there are other etiological factors behind memory loss apart from old age which are elaborated below-

  • Medications: Excess dosage of few drugs such as antihistamines, sedatives, tranquilizers, painkillers and anti-depressants can trigger memory loss.
  • Alcohol: Excessive intake of alcohol can cause chemical changes in the brain and deficiency of Vitamin B1 (thiamine) within the body causing memory loss.
  • Stress: Stress induced by emotional triggers can cause psychogenic amnesia which makes a person forget his/her name, address, date of birth and other basic information.
  • Depression: Depression caused due to environmental, hormonal or psychological factors can slowly lead to memory loss conditions.
  • Head injury: Head injury due to mechanical trauma can cause temporary loss of memory.
  • Existing diseases: Existing diseases such as Herpes, HIV, Meningitis, Syphilis, thyroid problems etc may directly impact the brain causing partial memory loss.
  • Lack of sleep: Sleep deprivation due to insomnia, sleep apnea can induce memory loss.
  • Diet: Regular diet deficient in vitamins B1 and B12 can impact memory.

 

Questions to determine the degree of memory loss

Memory loss manSince memory loss is often confused with normal forgetfulness, hence the following questions must be asked in order to determine the seriousness of memory loss-

  • What kinds of things are being forgotten?
  • Is regular lifestyle being disrupted due to memory loss?
  • What is the frequency of memory lapse?
  • Are there symptoms of mental instability as well?
  • Is the memory loss condition getting worse?

 

Symptoms of memory loss

The symptoms of memory loss are usually noticeable in the late stages since people mostly mistake it for normal forgetfulness. The following symptoms are observed-

  • Asking the same questions repeatedly within a short span of time
  • Forgetting, misusing and jumbling up common words during conversation
  • Taking an abnormally long time to complete a routine task
  • Misplacing items frequently
  • Getting lost while traveling within a familiar place
  • Losing judgment related to normal activities, such as following directions
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Depression, anxiety, hallucinations

 

Types of memory loss

Memory loss womanNational Institute of Aging has come up with different classifications of memory loss based on different criteria. A generalized classification is done based on the degree of memory loss. This includes-

  • Normal memory loss: It occurs with age due to reduced secretion of chemicals by the brain cells. It mainly affects recent memory and not the remote memory.
  • Reversible memory loss: It is short-termed and occurs due to mechanical trauma or emotional stress. It can be cured by proper medication.
  • Permanent memory loss: It occurs due to permanent damage to brain cells due to some chronic diseases.

The next classification includes the seven common types of memory problems such as –

  • Transience: It is the act of forgetting events with time
  • Absentmindedness: It occurs due to lack of attention
  • Blocking: It refers to the short-termed inability to recapitulate something
  • Misattribution: It refers to the partial accuracy in recollecting things and improper recollection of related details
  • Suggestibility: It is a deceptive situation in which the mind seems to recollect things (on suggestions) which it has no experience at all.
  • Bias: It is the situation when an individual’s perceptions are directed by experience, beliefs, prior knowledge or mental state at a particular moment.
  • Persistence: It refers to the persistence of unpleasant memories that people cannot forget on their own accord.

The second classification is more serious and is mainly related to diseases. These are –

  • Alzheimer’s disease: It is caused due to gradual degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and is characterized by loss of judgment, disorientation, and confusion.
  • Vascular dementia: It occurs due to obstructed blood flow to the brain causing the death of brain cells. It is marked by confusion and loss of focus.
  • Frontotemporal dementia: It affects the front and sides of the brain and is characterized by impairment in personality and social skills.
  • Lewy body dementia: It is caused by deposition of proteins called Lewy bodies inside the nerve cells within the brain. It can lead to Parkinson’s disease. It is characterized by the imbalance in movements and visual hallucinations.

 

Diagnosis

A neuropsychological examination is performed to analyze the detailed mental functioning in a memory loss patient. In addition to this, Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan are recommended to determine structural abnormalities of the brain if any.

 

Treatment and prevention

Those diagnosed with any neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s or dementia need to start their treatment as soon as possible. They might require palliative care consisting of a neurologist, psychiatrist, geriatrician etc for a holistic treatment. There is a wide range of drugs that might be prescribed to the patient (in the early to mid-stages of Alzheimer’s) such as tacrine, donepezil, or rivastigmine. Such patients also need to take care of their blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels.  In addition to medications, behavioral therapy is also an important part of the treatment protocol. It is important for such individuals to be surrounded by supportive people and have a healthy social life.

Those individuals who have a failing memory in the absence of a neurodegenerative disease, the following steps might aid them in day-to-day living:

  • Use memory aids and label things around.
  • Make use of apps and digital assistants.
  • Follow a fixed routine
  • Make use of mnemonics and flashcards.

While there are a lot of factors (genetic, environmental exposure, age etc) that can impact a person’s memory and even cause neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, practicing these basic steps can help improve memory:

  • Stress-related hormones such as cortisol are known to shrink the brain cells responsible for memory. Hence, in order to keep a sharp memory, one should learn how to manage stress effectively.
  • Eat brain-friendly foods such as whole grains, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids (salmon and tuna).
  • Avoid multitasking as it diminishes the brain’s capacity to retain information for a longer time.
  • Staying mentally active is an important requirement for having a sharp memory. Crossword puzzles, card games, volunteering activities, learning new skills/languages etc can help prevent memory loss.
  • Get 8-9 hours of uninterrupted night sleep every night. The human brain needs sufficient amount of REM sleep to function properly.
  • Physical exercises play an equally important role in delaying and preventing memory loss. Make sure that you get 150 minutes of healthy exercise every week.
  • If you have been diagnosed with any chronic condition such as high cholesterol or diabetes, it is important to manage these conditions well to ensure that your memory doesn’t deteriorate with time.

Facts

  • The most common cause of memory loss is aging. Other causes include dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, and substance abuse.
  • The hippocampus (a horse-shoe shaped part of the brain) is responsible for emotions and long-term memory formation.

Facts

  • By the time human beings reach their 80s, they lose up to 20% of the nerve connections associated with the hippocampus which leads to memory loss.
  • According to studies, the human brain can store information about 7 different things for approximately 20-30 seconds in the short term memory.

Facts

  • Hollywood movies “Memento” and “Finding Nemo” have been credited with portraying amnesia accurately. However, most of the pop-culture depiction of memory loss is inaccurate.
  • Since the olfactory nerve (helps in smell-detection) is situated very close to the hippocampus, the smell remains as a very powerful memory trigger among humans.

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • There are several ways one can improve memory. This includes learning a new skill and exercising regularly.
  • Seek appropriate medical help and therapy if the cause of memory loss is an emotional trauma.
  • Keep memory tools handy. Calendars, to-do lists, post-it notes and many more can help you retain information better.
Don'ts
  • Engage in arguments and heated discussions with people suffering from memory loss, especially dementia patients.
  • Keep correcting them. Speak clearly and encourage them to be a part of conversations.
  • Overburden such individuals with tasks and responsibilities they won’t be able to carry out.

 

 

 

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Surgery or home-remedy; what is the right way to treat a burn The treatment of a burn injury depends on its severity. You can save a life by offering the…
Coffee Enema: Turn your favorite morning beverage into a powerful colon cleanser The wonders of coffee are not just limited to waking you up every morning. You can now use…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
liver cleanse detox
14 go-to foods that are best for a complete natural liver detox Liver cleanse can be achieved by just choosing or avoiding certain types of food. Liver itself is a detoxifying…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
EEG
Electroencephalogram – EEG EEG or electroencephalogram is a diagnostic tool used to access the functioning of neurons and brain activity to…
LFT-test
Liver Function Test – LFT LFT or Liver Function Test is a blood test used to determine the levels of hepatic enzymes which…
Vitamin-D-blood-test
25-Hydroxy Vitamin D test 25-hydroxy Vitamin D test is a blood test used to measure the level of vitamin D in the…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
Rubella IgM test
Rubella IgM Test The Rubella IgM test is a blood test that is performed to diagnose the presence of the rubella…
HSV-1_IGG
Herpes Simplex Virus I (HSV)-IgG Test Herpes simplex virus I(HSV)-IgG is an Immunoglobulin protein that acts as an antibody & stays in the blood…
Thyroid disorders
Thyroid Profile Thyroid profile is a panel of blood tests performed to check if an individual is suffering from any…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Hepatitis A virus infected liver
Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) Total Blood test to look for IgM antibodies to know if you are infected with Hepatitis A virus (HAV),…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
Jack in the box fast food
Jack In the Box : The perils of surging fast food culture in the USA Jack in the Box - How a culture of fast-food can clog your arteries, weaken your heart, fatten…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
nutritional yeast bread
Nutritional Yeast : How can a fungi culture be good for your body? Nutritional yeast: How a simple culture of fungi can transform your skin, digestion, immunity , and much more.…
How seitan proved to be a blessing in disguise for vegans worldwide Can only meat-eaters enjoy delicious juicy steaks and burgers? With seitan, the best meat substitute available today,even vegans…
General adaptation syndrome: Understanding stress, one step at a time The struggle of the body to produce hormones during a stressful situation is the main theme of general…
Inversion Therapy: The anti-gravity way of healing chronic back pain Inversion therapy involves suspending a person upside dow using different types of equipment. This works by taking the…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
reflexology massage
Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
Unbelievable health benefits of gooseberries (and a few tasty recipes) Gooseberries are antioxidant-rich tasty fruits that can be easily added in daily diet to improve overall health and…
piles fissure fistula
Allopathy vs homeopathy vs ayurveda treatment for piles, fissures, and fistula Read to know the best form of treatment among allopathy, homeopathy,or ayurveda for piles, fissures, and fistula
Optavia diet
The features of an Optavia diet The Optavia diet endorses pre-packaged meals and snacks called "fuelings" that are tasty, low in calorie, and incorporates…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…