Forgetfulness: When is it a problem?

Forgetfulness can be caused by several things, not just Alzheimer's. Know what to look for and when to seek help from a medical professional.

Ever forget something and wonder: “Am I getting Alzheimer’s?”  Many of us have a fear of losing our memory but forgetfulness can be related to many different causes other than Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Forgetfulness could also be caused by:

  1. Physical Problems.  Some memory problems can be related to medications or vitamin 12 deficiencies and can be treated.  Thyroid, liver and kidney problems can lead to forgetfulness a well.  Lack of circulation to the brain, chronic alcohol abuse and brain injury can also lead to memory deficits. Treat the disease or cause and you may be able to improve your memory.  Talk to your doctor if you suspect physical problems are causing your forgetfulness.
  2. Emotional Problems.  Emotional problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, feeling overwhelmed or major life changes such as losing a spouse or friend or retirement can impact memory.  The confusion and forgetfulness caused by emotions usually are temporary.   They usually resolve when the situation is improved.  Making changes to deal with these situations may take some time, family support or professional help.

More Serious Memory Problems

For some, memory problems may be a sign of a serious problem such as mild cognitive impairment or dementia.  If you are concerned about your memory see your doctor.  He or she will do a physical and mental assessment to determine the cause.

Some indicators that your memory may need further evaluation include:

  • Being unable to remember things consistently
  • Asking the same question or repeating the same story over and over
  • Becoming lost in familiar places
  • Being unable to follow directions
  • Becoming disorientated about time, people and places
  • Neglecting personal hygiene, safety and nutrition

Ways to keep your memory sharp

  • When planning tasks, make a to-do list and use memory aids like notes and calendars.  Some people find they remember things better if they mentally connect them to meaningful things such as a familiar name, song, book or show or movie.
  • Develop interests or hobbies and stay involved in activities.
  • Engage in physical activities and exercise.  Several studies show that exercise such as walking is associated with better brain function.
  • Limit alcohol use. Although some studies show that alcohol has health benefits, heavy or binge drinking over time can cause memory loss or permanent brain damage.
  • Engage your brain through reading, crossword puzzles, taking a course and maintaining friendships.

For more information on memory and dementia, join us for Walk with a Doc on Thursday, September 20, 2012at 12 noon at the Heritage Park Nature Center in Farmington Hills, MI.  Dr. Annette Carron will talk about memory loss and dementia and answer questions.  Call 1-877-477-DOC1 for information and registration.

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