Most of us have experienced memory loss at one time or another. It may be as simple and fleeting as forgetting where you put the keys, somebody’s name, or whether you’ve already taken your medicine, to something very serious which requires professional medical treatment like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or amnesia.
- A sign of aging. Not only do our bodies degenerate as we grow older, but our brains do so as well. There comes a time in our life when we may find ourselves less efficient than when we were younger, with slower reflexes and memory recall. Memory loss due to aging mostly affects short term memory. This is natural, of course and we can’t prevent it, but we can slow it down by adopting a healthier lifestyle.
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Aging also causes the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which affect much of a person’s long term memory. Alzheimer’s disease is made up of a series of stages that progress and ultimately leads to a total shut down of the brain.
- Severe head injury. How often has it been portrayed in films and television shows (soap operas especially) that characters who survive a blow to the head inevitably acquire amnesia afterwards. This is true in some cases, with the person acquiring antegrade and retrograde amnesia—minor forms of amnesia that may be temporary. In some rare cases however, like a really severe brain trauma, a person may acquire permanent and complete memory loss. It might be hard to believe, but it can happen.
- Stroke. A stroke, depending on the damage it has inflicted on a person, may also cause memory loss as it is also connected to neurological problems like paralysis and speech impairment.
- Tumors. A brain tumor that mostly affects parts of the brain related to memory, would definitely impair a person’s memory functions. It might even come to a point when the person would be disoriented, paralyzed, and incapable of speech.
- Seizures. Undergoing severe seizures such as bouts of epilepsy are known to cause disorientation and temporary memory loss.
- Depression and anxiety, stress and fatigue. Psychological problems, stress and fatigue can all contribute to experiencing memory problems. Once a person has effectively overcome these psychological and physical causes, normal memory functions will come back.
- Drugs and drug abuse. Medications like barbiturates or benzodiazepines include memory loss as a side effect. If it is possible, avoid medications like these or regulate your medication. Excessive use or abuse of certain drugs may cause irreparable brain damage and memory loss.
- Excess alcohol. Getting intoxicated temporarily impairs normal mental functions. That’s why when people wake up to a hangover, they don’t remember much of what happened while they were drunk. Progressive alcoholism on the other hand, is much worse—it hits the nerves and slows down the nervous system, affecting short term memory that may become permanent if not treated.
The human memory is vital. A positive lifestyle change should be at the top of the list when combating memory loss. Research has yielded results that men and women who maintain a healthy Mediterranean diet composed of lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts, whole grains, cereals, and unsaturated fat (like olive oil) are less likely to acquire diseases like Alzheimer’s. One should also have the initiative to consult a doctor, undergo a regular test, and ask for some advice regarding medication, etc. It is also important to have fun and engage in activities that promote memory improvement like memory games, puzzles, mental exercises, etc.