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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Leptospira-IgM Test A Leptospira-IgM test is a blood test which is carried out to detect anti-Leptospira IgM antibody. Leptospirosis is…
nature health benefits
Green Healing: The amazing health benefits of being in nature You have no idea what sitting in a closed room does to your body and mind.Can a stroll…
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…
dandelion weight loss
Caralluma Fimbriata: How to eat this cactus to lose weight Caralluma fimbriata is a miracle cactus that can be safely consumed by most for losing weight and boosting…
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…
Atkins diet weight loss
Atkins Diet: The right steps to carb control that can help you lose those pounds fast The Atkins diet is a high fat, low-carb diet with proven weight loss benefits that is flexible enough…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
chloride test
Chloride Test A chloride test of the blood checks the level of chloride in body, an important factor governing the…
complement c4 test
Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
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…
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…
Love tea, hate tannins? Rooibos tea is just what you need The market is brimming with a multitude of herbal teas. But what makes rooibos tea (or red bush)…
How to correctly perform nasal irrigation using a Neti Pot? Neti pot has been a part of Ayurveda since centuries. This ancient tool is extremely effective in treating…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
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…
valproic acid test
Valproic Acid Test Valproic acid test is performed to generally check for psychiatric and even neurological conditions such as bipolar disease…
myelogram
Myelography Myelography is an important diagnostic tool that is used to investigate and identify abnormalities in the spine and…
Rubella IgM test
Rubella IgM Test The Rubella IgM test is a blood test that is performed to diagnose the presence of the rubella…
sodium blood test
Blood Sodium Test A blood sodium test measures the amount of sodium (an important electrolyte) in your body. It is also…
Coconut sugar: What is it and is it healthier than table sugar? In the long list of things that the wonderful coconut gives us, coconut sugar is another remarkable addition.…
Mood swings
The real reasons for your mood swings and how to overcome them Are you prone to heated moods frequently? Do you also feel bouts of depressive feeling creeping up on…
Quinine: How gin and tonic came to be known as a potent health elixir The discovery of quinine-containing tree bark is sometimes considered the most serendipitous medical discovery of the 17th century.
These are the top foods to increase your hemoglobin count It is important to add iron-rich foods into your diet in order to increase hemoglobin. Deficiency of hemoglobin could…
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…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect the extent of…
C-Reactive Protein Test A CRP or c-reactive protein blood test is an important diagnostic tool used to determine the risk of…
ANTIPHOSPHOLIPIDANTIBODY(APL)_IgG
Antiphospholipid (APL) antibody-IgG The Antiphospholipid Antibody testing is a blood test used to determine an autoimmune disorder called Antiphospholipid syndrome linked…
Strep throat pain
Anti-Streptolysin-O Test The ASO or Anti-Streptolysin-O is a blood test designed to check for the presence of streptococcus bacterial infection…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
hidden benefits walking
9 benefits of walking we bet you didn’t know! Did you know walking can be the miracle pill for eternal youth? Everyone knows walking is good for…
stress depressed anxiety
Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling sad? Have you…