Understanding the causes of memory loss will help you to spot early signs of dementia in loved ones, and knowing the facts can allay your suspicions about whether or not memory lapses indicate an actual cognitive deficiency.
Step 1: Understand effects of exhaustion Understand that mental exhaustion can mimic the signs of early phase Alzheimer's. If you create stress with an unrealistic workload, unhealthy habits, and a lack of sleep, the memory suffers.
Step 2: Research normal aging Research normal aging and learn how a healthy brain's structure and function changes, resulting in alterations in short term memory. Such slow and mild cognitive impairment is natural.
TIP: The brain generates neurons and new connections throughout life, increasing the potential for reversing memory loss.
Step 3: Confuse through depression Suffer from depression and, over many years, your memory will be affected adversely. With treatment, however, depression can be prevented from causing permanent memory problems.
Step 4: Experience loss Have a stroke or head injury and you are likely to experience substantial memory problems. Though only some memory function may return, a better diet and self-control may prevent further degradation.
TIP: Normal memory problems -- misplacing one's keys or not knowing why you entered a room -- don't get worse over time, though remembering may take longer as you age.
Step 5: Note side effects Note the side effects of medications and ask a pharmacist about interactions, which can sometimes result in memory loss. There is debate over whether statin drugs cause dementia-like symptoms.
Step 6: Identify bad habits If you practice consistently poor eating habits or experience frequent bouts of dehydration, memory problems could develop. The brain needs fuel, and depleting that supply can invite problems that may become permanent.
Step 7: Isolate and forget Isolate yourself and become lonely, or just bored, worried, and sad, and forgetfulness or confusion can follow. See a counselor or get active and socialize.
FACT: Loss of as little as 1 1/2 hours of sleep in a night can reduce daytime alertness by as much as 32 percent.