Memory loss and aging
Memory loss and dementia
- Asking the same questions repeatedly.
- Forgetting common words when speaking.
- Mixing words up, such as saying “bed” instead of “table.”
- Taking longer to complete familiar tasks, like following a recipe.
- Misplacing items in inappropriate places, such as putting a wallet in a kitchen drawer.
- Getting lost while walking or driving in a familiar area.
- Having changes in mood or behavior for no apparent reason.
Mild cognitive impairment
Reversible causes of memory loss
- Medications. Certain medications or a combination of medications can cause forgetfulness or confusion.
- Minor head trauma or injury. A head injury from a fall or accident—even if you don’t lose consciousness—can sometimes cause memory problems.
- Emotional disorders. Stress, anxiety or depression can cause forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities.
- Sleep disorders. Poor quality or insufficient sleep can cause mental fogginess and forgetfulness that can interfere with a person’s daily life. Obstructive sleep apnea is a common example of a sleep disorder that causes cognitive impairment that can be reversed with treatment of the underlying problem.
- Alcoholism. Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities. Alcohol also can cause memory loss by interacting with medications.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. A vitamin B12 deficiency, common in older adults, can cause memory problems. Learn how to maximize memory function with a nutrient-rich diet.
- Hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism, can result in forgetfulness and other thinking problems.
- Brain diseases. Although less common than other causes, a tumor or infection in the brain can cause memory problems or other dementia-like symptoms.
When to see your health care team
- When did your memory problems begin?
- What medications, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements, do you take and in what doses?
- Have you recently started a new drug?
- What tasks do you find difficult?
- What have you done to cope with memory problems?
- How much alcohol do you drink?
- Have you recently been in an accident, fallen or injured your head?
- Are you having difficulty sleeping?
- Have you recently been sick?
- Do you feel sad, depressed or anxious?
- Have you recently had a major loss, change or stressful event in your life?
The importance of a diagnosis
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