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Remembering Remembrances

What causes Memory Losses?

It’s important to be aware of ways that your health, environment, and lifestyle may contribute to memory loss. Sometimes, even what looks like significant memory loss can be caused by treatable conditions and reversible external factors.

Many prescribed and over-the-counter drugs or combinations of drugs can cause cognitive problems and memory loss as a side effect. This is especially common in older adults because they break down and absorb medication more slowly. Common medications that affect memory and brain function include sleeping pills, antihistamines, blood pressure and arthritis medication, muscle relaxants, ant cholinergic drugs for urinary incontinence and gastrointestinal discomfort, antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and painkillers.

Depression can mimic the signs of memory loss, making it hard for you to concentrate, stay organized, remember things, and get stuff done. Depression is a common problem in older adults—especially if you’re less social and active than you used to be or you’ve recently experienced a number of important losses or major life changes (retirement, a serious medical diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, moving out of your home).

Vitamin B12 protects neurons and is vital to healthy brain functioning. In fact, a lack of B12 can cause permanent damage to the brain. Older people have a slower nutritional absorption rate, which can make it difficult for you to get the B12 your mind and body need. If you smoke or drink, you may be at particular risk. If you address a vitamin B12 deficiency early, you can reverse the associated memory problems. Treatment is available in the form of a monthly injection.

The thyroid gland controls metabolism: if your metabolism is too fast, you may feel confused, and if it’s too slow, you can feel sluggish and depressed. Thyroid problems can cause memory problems such as forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating. Medication can reverse the symptoms.

Excessive alcohol intake is toxic to brain cells, and alcohol abuse leads to memory loss. Over time, alcohol abuse may also increase the risk of dementia. Because of the damaging effects of excessive drinking, experts advise limiting your daily intake to just 1-2 drinks.

Older adults are particularly susceptible to dehydration. Severe dehydration can cause confusion, drowsiness, memory loss, and other symptoms that look like dementia. It’s important to stay hydrated Be particularly vigilant if you take diuretics or laxatives or suffer from diabetes, high blood sugar, or diarrhea.

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