Do you have trouble remembering people’s names? I never forget a face, but for me, names can be tricky, especially common names. Unusual names are less of a problem. It seems that I’ve met a lot of people who say the same thing. They can’t remember names. It makes me wonder if we bombard ourselves with so much information during constant cell phone use that it causes a sort of clog in the memory bank. Or perhaps exposure to chemicals in foods, beauty products, cleaning products and other things has something to do with it. Maybe it’s all of the above.
Either way, memory loss can be a serious matter. Whether the root of the problem is depression, stress, anxiety, prescription side-effects, sleep deprivation or an age-related disease, depends on you. If you are experiencing the kind of memory loss that interferes with your ability to function well at home or at work or both, it may be time for a check-up. But before jumping to conclusions and allowing the stress of your memory loss to cause more stress, ask yourself some simple questions about your daily routine.
- Are you sleeping well?
- Are you eating balanced, nourishing meals rather than fast food or processed food?
- Do you have unresolved issues that keep you from being able to sleep properly?
- Do you exercise regularly?
All or any of these aspects of your day-to-day experience can contribute to issues memory function. According to WebMD, here are some common problems to consider:
- Drugs and Alcohol. Antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and pain medications given after surgery can interfere with your ability to remember things. Alcoholism or the use of recreational drugs can also be culprits.
- Tobacco. When you smoke, the amount of oxygen to your brain is reduced, therefore your brain function, including where memory is concerned is in danger.
- Lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much can both create fatigue, which makes it difficult to retain and retrieve information. Going to bed and waking up at normal hours are important for overall health and brain function.
- Depression and stress. When you are overwhelmed, depressed and stressed out, you may have a hard time paying attention and retaining information. Anxiety, emotional illness and trauma are other common obstacles to concentration.
- Lack of nutrition. It’s important to eat high-quality protein and fats to improve brain function. If your body is deficient in vitamins B1 and/or B12, your memory will be compromised.
- Head injuries. If you have been in an accident, a fall or a car accident, your brain may have suffered trauma, which can cause memory loss, which may improve as you heal.
- Stroke. A stroke is caused by the blood supply to the brain being blocked by a blood vessel to the brain or leakage of a vessel into the brain. It is common for a stroke to cause short-term memory loss. Although stroke victims may have clear memories of events that happened many years ago, they may find it difficult or impossible to remember more recent events, like what they ate for breakfast.
- Dementia. Dementia is memory loss that gets progressively worse with time and can complicate daily living. Dementia can be caused by a wide variety of things, including drug or alcohol use, damage to the brain, blood vessel disease and Alzheimer's disease.
- Additional causes. Infections like TB, HIV and syphilis can interfere with brain function, as well as either an underactive or overactive thyroid gland.
To determine the cause of your memory loss, see your doctor. It’s important to have a full exam, including taking a medical history and a neurologic as well as physical exam to help gather clues. The doctor will decide if there is a need for blood and urine tests, nerve tests, an MRI or a CAT scan.
Memory loss, in some cases, may be reversible with treatment. You may also benefit from nutritional supplements if the cause is vitamin or mineral deficiency. If your issues are related to Alzheimer’s disease, there are drugs to treat memory loss.
If all you need is some extra sleep, to regulate your exercise habits or to practice mindfulness, just do it. If your issue is stress, stop worrying.