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Fixing a hole in your memory

Fixing a hole in your memory

We all have lapses in memory, no matter what our age is. We go into our bedroom and can’t remember why, or forget where we put our glasses. As we get older though we can worry that forgetting a certain birthday or appointment is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, however, and it affects only about 10 per cent of people between the ages of 65 and 85. Nonetheless, if you feel your memory is affecting your quality of life at home or at work, then it can be a good idea to visit your doctor for a checkup. This is because there are a lot of different things that can cause your memory ability to change or decline. However, the good news is that a lot of these things can be treated so it’s important to get checked out.

Recent research found links between difficulties with memory and concentration in older adults and taking common medications to treat itching, allergies or problems sleeping. In one study, those taking cortisone – which turns into the hormone cortisol in the body – were not as good at remembering a list of words as those who did not. Cortisol is released into your bloodstream at times of stress and it can impair memory making. Stopping or switching some types of medication may offer a solution; however it is very important to check with your doctor first before stopping or changing any medication. Even single doses of certain medication can lead to forgetfulness or confusion. 

Another cause of memory slippage can be a lack of B-12, a vitamin essential for the upkeep of our nerve cells and red blood cells. Or, if you have an underactive thyroid gland, your body engine could be running too slow and leading to forgetfulness and fogged thinking – these causes can be spotted by your doctor running medical checks. 

Finally, feeling down or anxious or being under stress can take its toll on your memory. When the blues blow around in, they knock over all sorts of fine chemical balances. Levels of cortisol rise, for example, and constant elevated levels of this stress hormone seem to wear down the hippocampus, our seahorse-shaped memory centre. Being depressed also affects your attention and focus, making it harder to mould those memories in the first place. Finally, getting too little sleep deprives the brain of the time required to solidify memories and call them back. 

No matter what the cause, a visit to a doctor can allow you to figure out what’s causing memory problems and get appropriate treatment. Also, an early diagnosis of mild cognitive problems, Alzheimer’s disease or a related brain disease is beneficial for a number of reasons. Illustration: Memory

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