What Causes Memory Loss

Memory loss is a normal part of aging, but progressive memory loss can interfere with your daily activities and could require medical attention. We’ve outlined the basics of memory loss, including prevention and the long-term outlook, here. Read on.

7 minute read

Last Updated July 13, 2020

Memory Loss Causes - Immunity - 1MD

Occasional forgetfulness is something everyone experiences. Forgetting where you parked the car or what your neighbor’s name is common. It is even normal to experience mild memory lapses or loss as you get older.

Progressive memory loss is a different matter and is more serious and disruptive to your life. Memory loss that is the result of neurodegenerative diseases or other conditions affecting the brain can have a detrimental impact on your well-being.

Most causes of memory loss can be treated, so long as they are diagnosed early enough. As you get older, you will notice that your memory fades a little, and you may rely more on calendars and making lists. 

As for physical decline associated with aging, slight mental decline is also normal. When the memory loss is progressive and begins to prevent you from performing daily functions, there is likely a more serious underlying condition at the root. 

Causes of Memory Loss

Outside of aging, there are a few factors that can contribute to memory loss.

♦ Vitamin B-12 deficiency
♦ Sleep deprivation
♦ Head injury
♦ Emotional trauma
♦ Use of alcohol or drugs
♦ Cancer treatments
♦ Migraine
♦ Mental disorders such as bipolar disorder or depression

Many of these causes of memory loss are treatable, and memory loss can be reversed. The diseases most commonly associated with memory loss include:

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease causing memory loss, and a decline in reasoning and thinking. Memory loss is one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s and it gets progressively worse as the disease continues. There is no cure for this disease, but with treatment, you can delay its onset and slow the progression.

Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder of which there is no cure. It causes the muscles to tighten and makes mobility very challenging. People with Parkinson’s also develop cognitive problems such as memory loss and dementia. 

Hypoglycemia is a condition marked by extremely low blood glucose levels. When this happens, your memory and cognitive abilities can become impaired. If left untreated, this can cause permanent damage to brain nerve cells and can lead to dementia.

Encephalitis is commonly caused by the herpes simplex virus and leads to brain inflammation. Long term brain swelling can cause learning disabilities, speech problems, and memory loss.

Delirium is a very serious disturbance in mental abilities, causing confusion and reduced awareness of the environment. It is common among those with dementia, and it is associated with severe memory loss. 

Hypercalcemia is a condition where calcium levels in your body are dangerously high. Too much calcium in your blood can weaken bones, create kidney stones, and interfere with heart and brain function. Depression, memory loss, and confusion are all common symptoms of hypercalcemia, and without treatment, cancer is a real risk. 

Seizures can affect your memory as a result of the irregular electrical activity in the brain. People with epilepsy that have frequent seizures are prone to memory loss, especially immediately following an episode. 

Stroke can cause dementia and memory loss. When blood flow to the brain is interrupted, brain cells can be damaged, and this causes memory loss and other cognitive impairment. Memory loss can be temporary, depending on the severity of the nerve damage. More progressive memory loss is a sign of dementia which is common after severe strokes. 

Diagnosis of Memory Loss

If you notice that memory loss is interfering with your daily activities or is threatening your safety, you need to seek medical attention. 

Although many causes of memory loss can be treated, there are some that will become worse without treatment. Your doctor will need to evaluate your medical history before making a diagnosis. 

They may also ask questions to test your memory and conduct a physical exam to assess any physical symptoms. 

Depending on the results, your doctor will refer to a specialist for additional testing. You may be referred to a mental health professional, a neurologist, or a geriatrician. 

Additional testing can include:

♦ Cognitive testing to analyze your thinking ability
♦ Imaging such as MRI or CT scans
♦ Spinal tap
♦ Blood tests to identify deficiencies or other conditions
♦ Cerebral angiography, which shows how blood is flowing through the rain

Natural Treatment to Prevent Memory Loss

By taking care of your brain and promoting brain health, you can prevent memory loss. In the cases where an underlying medical condition is causing the memory loss, the tips below can help to prevent memory loss from getting worse and slow its progression. 

♦ Eat less added sugars 
♦ Cut down on refined carbohydrates
♦ Start taking a fish oil supplement
♦ Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
♦ Maintain a healthy weight
♦ Get enough sleep
♦ Add more greens to your diet
♦ Practice mindfulness and meditation
♦ Drink less alcohol or cut it out of your diet completely
♦ Get regular exercise
♦ Train your brain with regular reading, puzzles, and mind games
♦ Consider natural supplements such as turmeric or probiotics to fight inflammation

You should also consider natural supplements such as turmeric or probiotics to fight inflammation. 

Beneficial probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus help to maintain a healthy gut, which prevents chronic inflammation. They also work to prevent allergies and can reduce the severity of immune system responses to allergic triggers. 

Two additional ingredients to add to your diet to prevent memory loss are zinc and l-lysine.

Zinc: Studies have found that zinc is essential for hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. Zinc deficiency has been associated with impaired memory and learning deficiencies. 
L-lysine: This amino acid needs to be obtained through food and helps to prevent memory loss by reducing brain inflammation. This beneficial ingredient also prevents the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, which are associated with dementia.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

Memory loss is a normal part of aging, but a normal loss is only minimal. Progressive memory loss that interferes with your daily activities is more serious and needs medical attention. 

There are a number of diseases that can cause memory loss, so this early sign should never be ignored. If you or a loved one is experiencing memory loss more frequently, then speak with your doctor. Some diseases cannot be cured, but with proper treatment, you can delay the onset or worsening of symptoms. 

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