Memory Loss: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Many people believe that memory loss is simply a fact of life. They have heard that everyone loses their memory to some degree when they get older. Thus, they think there is little they can do to prevent this from happening.

This is an understandable assumption to make. However, it does not fully reflect the reality of the situation. First, while some degree of memory loss often does come with age, it’s no secret that some people experience more severe memory loss than others. Additionally, some people develop memory loss problems much earlier in life than expected.

Perhaps most importantly, there are also many others who maintain strong memories throughout their lives.


Before delving into this topic any further, it’s important to understand that this condition can be a symptom of a serious health issue, like Alzheimer’s or dementia. It can also develop in younger people if they’ve suffered from illnesses or accidents that have caused their brains harm.

That’s why it’s important to consult with a physician if you’ve been struggling with memory issues. You want to make sure a trained professional has the opportunity to assess your health and determine whether major treatment is necessary to correct the issue.

That said, memory loss can develop for a wide range of reasons. It’s also possible for many people to slow or even potentially reverse the progress of this condition. The information in this article will help you better understand what factors might cause memory loss, and what you can do about it.

What Causes Memory Loss in the First Place?

Before exploring exactly what might be responsible for someone losing their memory, it’s important to make a few distinctions.

First, when memory loss seems to develop as the result of aging, it’s necessary to understand how normal age-related memory loss differs from the kinds of symptoms a person might experience if they’re actually suffering from a condition like dementia or Alzheimer’s.

People who lose some degree of memory in old age, but don’t necessarily have any major health conditions related to this issue, typically experience a relatively minor degree of forgetfulness. They might occasionally forget where they put their keys. Sometimes they’ll forget a person’s name. In these instances, their memory is often restored at a later point. If they forget the name of someone they see on a fairly regular basis, odds are good they’ll remember later on.

That’s not the case for older people who have developed conditions like dementia. These people exhibit more noticeable symptoms that others may actually spot before they do. Instead of forgetting the name of someone they occasionally see, they may regularly forget very simple words. It’s also common for such people to repeatedly ask the same questions in a short span of time.

Additionally, people with significant memory loss related to a health condition tend to have trouble completing certain basic tasks that were once fairly easy for them. For instance, a person may take longer to cook a meal they’ve cooked several times throughout their life because they no longer remember the recipe as easily as they used to.

As these conditions develop, other significant behaviors associated with memory loss can emerge. A person might become lost more frequently, even when spending time in an area that should be familiar to them. They’ll often misplace items, and they can begin to exhibit noticeable changes in mood or personality that don’t appear to be linked to any outside cause (Source).

If you or a loved one (especially if they’re older) appear to be experiencing this type of memory loss, get in touch with a doctor as soon as possible. In general, treatment for these conditions is much more effective when a patient has the opportunity to begin a treatment plan sooner rather than later.

However, there are other types of memory loss that aren’t associated with medical conditions like dementia. Potential causes for these cases include the following:

Sleep Problems

Many people struggle with getting enough sleep at night. This problem is arguably becoming much more common now that many of us have access to electronic devices that can be very distracting to a person trying to get rest.

Unfortunately, if you’re not getting enough sleep, your brain isn’t getting the rest it needs to function properly. This results in a wide range of cognitive impairments. Memory loss is just one of them.

That’s why it’s important to address your sleep problems if you are the kind of person who doesn’t get enough rest during an average night (Source).

Mental Health Issues

Although every patient is different, in general, people who have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety are more likely than others to suffer from some degree of noticeable memory loss. If you believe you have a mental health condition like these, speak with a medical professional. They can help you take steps to overcome your mental illness. Restoring your memory is almost an added bonus (Source).

Stress

You don’t need to be diagnosed with an official mental health disorder to experience memory loss related to emotional struggles. Even people who are otherwise mentally healthy can still experience high levels of stress for various reasons in life.

Unfortunately, stress has been linked to memory loss (Source).

Brain Injuries and Diseases

A person who has suffered a brain injury is more likely than most to experience memory loss as a result of their accident. Other illnesses and conditions, like brain tumors, can have a similar effect.

This is why you should always make a point of consulting with your doctor if you’re struggling with memory loss, especially if you’re not certain what the cause is. They can help you identify any unnoticed factors that may be responsible for your condition (Source).

Poor Nutrition

Odds are good you already know that proper nutrition is crucial if you want your body to perform at optimal levels. Of course, your brain is part of your body. That means that you can develop memory loss if you’re not getting essential nutrients.

Specifically, you need the right amount of vitamins B1 and B12 to support strong brain function, as well as healthy levels of protein and fats (Source).

Alcoholism

It’s no secret that consuming too much alcohol on a regular basis can have a very negative impact on your wellbeing. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can harm your liver, cause you to gain weight, and impact your overall safety.

Additionally, it can impair your cognitive functioning, resulting in memory loss (Source).

Smoking

Smoking is another habit you should quit if you’re trying to boost your health. This is particularly true if you’re worried about memory loss. According to studies, smoking prevents proper levels of oxygen from reaching your brain.

As a result, you’re more likely than a non-smoker to struggle with memory loss throughout life (Source).

Medications

You probably know that many prescription medications carry the risk of side effects. It’s not uncommon for memory loss to be a potential side effect of many different medications (Source).

This does not mean you should stop taking any medications you currently rely on. You should always consult with your doctor before deciding to stop taking medication of any kind. That said, it may be a good idea to discuss this issue with your physician if you’ve been struggling with memory loss and believe that medication may be responsible for the problem.

This may be an instance in which your doctor can prescribe another medication that doesn’t have the same side effects but does offer the same relative benefits.

Hypothyroidism

According to doctors, an underactive thyroid gland can result in symptoms like memory loss. Because a person needs to be tested for hypothyroidism, this is another good reason to speak to a physician about these issues (Source).

Stroke

Although you probably don’t need anyone telling you that you may develop some amount of cognitive impairment after experiencing a stroke, it’s still worth mentioning here. Memory loss is a common symptom among stroke victims (Source).


Again, if you’re experiencing significant memory loss, seeing a doctor is a good idea. This article will absolutely provide valuable tips for preventing and treating this condition.

However, the advice here should not be confused for official medical advice. You need to consult with a doctor who has access to your overall medical history to understand what treatment method is right for your needs.

Additionally, it’s simply difficult to ascertain the proper method of treatment if you don’t first identify what caused the problem.

That said, the advice here can help you understand what steps you should take to improve your own cognitive functioning. If you’re struggling with memory loss or are worried about developing it, keep the following tips in mind.

How to Prevent and Treat Memory Loss

Remember, the proper treatment for memory loss will vary from one person to another. The remedy that works for someone experiencing memory loss due to sleep deprivation may not have the same effect on someone whose memory problems are linked to a nutritional deficiency.

That’s why you shouldn’t give up applying these suggestions simply because one of the tips here does not work right away. Determining the best way to prevent and treat your own particular memory loss often involves a degree of trial and error. Stick with the process, however, and you’re likely to see positive results.

If you want to stave off memory loss, apply these suggestions:

Get More Sleep

You already know that not getting enough sleep can definitely contribute to memory problems. Contrary to what you may have heard, the average adult actually needs approximately nine hours of sleep every day in order for their brain to function to its full potential. While getting this much sleep may require you to make certain lifestyle changes, the long-term benefits are worth it (Source).

There are many ways you can improve the quality of your sleep. Although some people may need prescription medications in order to address this kind of problem, this is not always necessary. Such medications can have strong side effects that you may want to avoid.

Thus, it’s worth trying other methods first if your sleep deprivation isn’t particularly severe. Supplements like melatonin can help you get to sleep more easily and stay asleep longer without exposing you to any major side effects.

Making sure you only use your bedroom for sleep and lovemaking is another recommendation experts often have. If you, for example, use your bedroom to get work done, your body and mind won’t know to relax when you enter it. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep.

You should also be aware of how your eating habits may interfere with your sleep patterns. Simply eating or drinking too close to bedtime can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom. Additionally, alcohol has been linked to sleep difficulties.

Try to avoid using electronic devices like your phone, computer, or TV for at least an hour before going to bed. Evidence indicates that the light these devices emit can actually suppress your body’s natural production of melatonin. This hormone is essential for helping a person get to sleep.

Of course, if you’re anything like many other people in today’s fast-paced modern world, there’s a good chance you rely on caffeine to help you power through your workday.

Unfortunately, relying too much on caffeine can have a major, negative impact on the quality of your sleep. Try to cut back if you do have a tendency to consume large amounts of caffeine on a regular basis.

Finally, take steps to make sure your bedroom provides you with a relaxing environment that’s conducive to sleep. You may want to use blackout curtains or a white noise maker (or both) to shut out distractions. You could also consider using a guided visualization recording designed specifically to help you get to sleep (Source).

Although the methods listed here may not be equally effective for everyone, in general, they can absolutely help you get to bed more easily. Just keep in mind that when it comes to making changes to your sleep schedule, it can take some time before you notice an effect. Don’t abandon a strategy right away simply because you haven’t noticed immediate results.

Get More Exercise

Exercise is very important for many reasons. It promotes overall health and can stave off many conditions that develop during the aging process. Memory loss is just one of them. By exercising more regularly, you’ll typically be able to get to sleep more easily.

However, that’s not the only reason why exercising is good for people who want to prevent memory loss. Researchers believe that staying fit may help people maintain strong memories because exercise allows blood to flow more easily throughout the body. When your brain receives a sufficient amount of blood, it gets the nutrition it needs to work effectively. This means you’re less likely to develop memory loss (Source).

Reduce Stress

Again, too much stress can have a negative impact on your memory. It can also prevent you from getting enough sleep, which further contributes to memory problems.


Luckily, there are many steps you can take to address stress in your life. The first may simply involve addressing an underlying issue that’s causing you to feel more stress to begin with. If your current circumstances are making you more prone to anxiety and worry, then correcting those issues should be a priority.

That said, there are definitely times in life when you can’t control all the factors that are stressing you out. On top of that, there are some people who are simply more prone to stress than others. This can be true even if their current life circumstances aren’t very stressful in general. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with techniques you can use to keep stress at bay no matter what.

Meditation is one method. It’s also an extremely simple one. You don’t need any special tools to meditate. All you need is a relatively quiet space where you can spend a few minutes a day focusing on your breath. Thanks to the internet, finding articles or videos that teach you how to meditate is extremely easy. You might also consider adopting a similar practice, like yoga.

Need another reason to exercise? If so, now you have one. Exercise is also very effective at reducing stress.

Having hobbies or similar pleasant activities to focus on is another important goal for anyone who wants to reduce stress in their life. Hobbies can give you something positive to focus on. Instead of ruminating on the issues that are contributing to your stress, you can do something productive that takes your mind off your worry.

Socializing is also extremely important if you want to reduce your stress. Make sure you’re spending enough time with family and friends, but don’t let your social life get so demanding that you end up losing sleep. It’s necessary to strike a balance between going out and taking it easy. That said, maintaining healthy relationships is key to reducing daily stress.

You might also need to address some of your own bad habits if stress is overwhelming you. Some people who struggle with chronic worry simply aren’t very good at managing their own time. They put themselves in stressful situations because they don’t plan and organize their daily lives. If this describes you, make an effort to correct this issue.

Finally, if you’ve tried numerous methods but aren’t seeing results, consider getting in touch with a counselor or similar mental health professional. Your stress levels could be linked to an underlying mental health issue that needs to be addressed. By working with a professional, you’ll be more likely to reduce worry and prevent consequences like memory loss (Source).

Avoid Harmful Substances

Again, consuming too much alcohol or smoking tobacco products can have a negative impact on your cognitive functioning. So can abusing many other substances.

You already have good reasons to avoid these habits. Preventing memory loss is just one more reason.

That said, many people understand that breaking these habits can be very difficult for people. Thus, you shouldn’t feel the need to go it alone.

If you’re struggling to avoid harmful substances, reach out to both friends and professionals for help. Friends and family can offer emotional support, while a medical professional can likely provide you with resources to make quitting harmful substances much easier.

Keep Your Mind Stimulated

Remember, although there are many potential causes of memory loss, age-related cognitive decline is one of the main ones. The fact is, you simply don’t need to be diagnosed with a condition like dementia to lose some degree of memory in your old age.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep your brain sharp throughout life.

The brain needs stimulation. Novelty keeps the brain functioning at optimal levels. The problem is, the brain often doesn’t receive this stimulation on a regular basis. If you’ve settled into a basic daily routine, in which you perform fairly similar tasks at work, stick to a relatively consistent daily schedule, and don’t take advantage of opportunities to flex your mental muscles, you’re more likely to develop cognitive decline as you get older.

This is why experts recommend seeking ways to keep the brain stimulated on a regular basis. There are many potential ways of achieving this goal.

Simply reading books on topics that interest you is one way to maintain a healthy, functioning brain. You might even go a step further and take a course on an interesting topic if you feel so inclined. Odds are good this will give you more opportunities to engage directly with the subject matter, allowing your brain to receive even more stimulation.

Experts in this field also recommend brain games, crossword puzzles, and other cognitive tests. They can provide your brain with enough of a challenge to keep it stimulated, without challenging it so much that you end up giving up on these tasks before you reap the benefits (Source).

It’s worth mentioning that there is some degree of overlap between many of the suggestions in this article. For example, you’ve already learned that getting enough sleep, socializing regularly, and exercising are all steps you can take to prevent memory loss.

As it turns out, these steps also help you stimulate your brain. Thus, if you are planning to focus on developing a plan for keeping your brain young, making sure you incorporate those elements is important.

Stick to a Healthy Diet

Everyone knows that eating well is key to their overall health. That said, they may not know exactly what foods they should include in their diets in order to achieve certain goals. The information here will help if you want to support cognitive function but don’t know what kind of diet provides the right nutrients.

Eating more fish is a good start. Many types of fish, notably options like salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These provide the brain with the healthy fat it needs to work properly.

It’s also very important to get enough vitamin E if you want to prevent memory loss. That’s why experts recommend consuming healthy quantities of green, leafy vegetables. Options to consider include kale, spinach, and broccoli.

Want to know what you can snack on while still boosting your brain health? Try focusing on snacks that incorporate peanuts or peanut butter. They are rich in healthy fats and vitamin E.

Avocados are another type of food that contain the vitamins and antioxidants your brain needs to keep your memory in good shape. They’re also fairly versatile, going well with a large number of different meals.

It is also worth mentioning that some research does indicate a link between consuming a glass of red wine a day and preventing memory loss. That said, the research hasn’t yet revealed why this is the case. Some believe that antioxidants in the wine may be responsible for supporting brain health.

On the other hand, because the research is still in its early stages, experts also point out that there could be other reasons why people who drink red wine are less likely than others to experience cognitive decline in old age. For example, a person who drinks a glass of red wine a night may do so with a loved one or friend.

In this case, it could be that their healthy social life is responsible for their cognitive functioning. Of course, it’s worth mentioning the research, even if there isn’t yet a consensus on exactly why red wine is associated with stronger memory in old age.

It’s particularly important here to remember that many of these remedies will take some time to yield noticeable effects. You can’t just eat healthy one day and expect your brain to start functioning better right away.

After all, a healthy diet offers a wide range of major benefits to anyone who wants to live a better life overall. You should stick to one even if it doesn’t seem to have an impact on your memory right away (Source).

Train Your Brain

Again, brain puzzles can be a great way to keep yourself cognitively stimulated. That said, you don’t need to rely on crosswords or puzzle books to achieve this effect. You can simply train your memory in much more basic ways.

To do this, think of a basic piece of content you should have memorized. An example would be a recipe that you believe you could make without having to check it. This should be a recipe you’re already familiar with.

Sit down with a piece of paper or a computer, and try to write out the ingredients and steps from memory. Doing this once a day will keep your brain stimulated and your memory sharp (Source).

If you don’t cook, that doesn’t mean you can’t use this method. Simply choose another piece of content you believe you could remember if you tried. It may be a passage from a book, a scene from a movie, or even a complex piece of music you’ve heard a few times in the past.

Trying to recall this content with as much accuracy as possible gives your brain a minor workout that can yield major rewards if you stick with this daily practice over a long period of time.

Try Herbs

There are a wide variety of herbs that have been shown to support proper brain function. Depending on the specific herb you choose, they can be consumed in several different ways. Some may be added to meals, some may take the form of herbal tea, and some may be consumed directly in the form of nutritional supplements.

Ginseng has long been used to assist in strengthening memory and guard against cognitive decline. Luckily, you don’t have to rely on anecdotal evidence to understand why people believe this herb to be particularly effective. Studies indicate that even people suffering from Alzheimer’s show improvements in memory after taking ginseng on a regular basis over the course of 12 weeks. Another herb, gingko biloba, has been shown to offer similar benefits.

Some herbs don’t even need to be directly consumed to help improve cognition. Studies indicate that the mere aroma of rosemary can be enough to boost a person’s memory. Thus, you may consider sprinkling some rosemary oil around your home, or using an essential oil diffuser to spread the aroma.

While it’s important to understand that herbs should not be considered substitutes for medication if a person is suffering from memory loss linked to a condition like dementia or Alzheimer’s, knowing that they have been effective at helping people with these conditions gives you a good reason to try them.

If they can improve memory in patients with Alzheimer’s, imagine what they can potentially do for someone who is merely struggling with relatively minor memory problems (Source).

Supplement with Vitamins

Again, you need certain vitamins to ensure your brain functions at optimal levels. While it’s typically best to get these vitamins from food sources, that isn’t always possible.

That’s why you may want to take vitamins in supplement form. Specifically, focus on vitamins E and B12. Both of these are essential for proper brain function (Source).

Try Lemon Verbena Tea

As you know, getting enough sleep is key to preserving your memory. Additionally, reducing your caffeine consumption may be necessary in order for you to get the right amount of sleep.

People who are trying to drink less caffeine during the day often feel the need to drink other energizing beverages as substitutes. Luckily, you can use lemon verbena tea to give yourself that little energizing jolt you need. Perhaps more importantly, some believe that lemon verbena tea can have a positive impact on cognitive function (Source).

Follow Your Doctor’s Orders

Many different chronic health conditions can impact your memory in negative ways. Sometimes the effects are direct, while in other instances, they may be indirect. For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with a condition that results in chronic pain, that constant discomfort could potentially interfere with your sleep patterns. This will make you more vulnerable than the average person to memory loss.

This is yet another reason why it’s always important to heed your doctor’s advice and consult with them regularly about all health conditions, including memory problems. Effectively treating and/or managing these conditions can reduce the impact they have on your memory (Source).

Try Alternative Methods

These treatments are not substitutes for proper medical care. They should only be considered supplementary to a genuine treatment program. That said, some people do report experiencing improvements in memory and overall cognitive functioning after undergoing acupressure or acupuncture treatments.

Thus, you may want to consider trying them if you believe they would help you. Just don’t rely on them if your memory loss is having a significant impact on your daily life (Source).

Prepare

Some degree of memory loss should be expected with age. Unfortunately, if you don’t prepare accordingly, you could exacerbate the problem.

It’s easy to understand why some people grow frustrated when their memory problems interfere with their day-to-day life. A person who used to be able to remember all their appointments without checking a calendar could get upset and stressed if they find they are no longer able to do so as effectively as they once did.

The problem is, this can result in the kind of stress that further impairs your memory.

This is a good reason to prepare and make adjustments as you reach an age where cognitive decline is more likely. Use calendars to keep yourself organized. If you take medications, get a daily pill sorter. Write down notes after important conversations or meetings.

You may think these tasks represent a form of giving up. After all, your goal is to prevent and treat memory loss, not learn ways to simply live with it, right?

That’s true. However, you also need to accept certain realities of life. There is a good chance your memory will decline somewhat in old age. By using calendars, notes, and other tools, you offload a lot of the mental work that your brain would otherwise need to handle. This helps you avoid overburdening it, which can help you prevent memory loss as a result (Source).

Nap

It’s worth mentioning: you don’t need to get all of your sleep at once in order to reap the cognitive benefits that proper sleep offers. After all, not everyone has the type of lifestyle that permits them to get a full nine hours of sleep every night.

That’s why it’s a good idea to set aside 15 minutes to a half hour each day for a nap. Regular naps can help you get the right amount of sleep, and improve your immediate cognition and memory. They offer a great boost during a long day that rivals the boost caffeine offers. Best of all, they have no unpleasant side effects (Source).

Manage Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can do a lot of damage to your overall health. Studies have also shown that it can have a surprisingly significant impact on your memory. Thus, researchers recommend staying on top of this health issue by eating healthy, getting enough exercise, managing stress, and consulting with your physician on a regular basis.

While people with a family history of high blood pressure are typically more likely than others to develop this problem, every single adult should make a point of trying to manage theirs (Source).

Sense Everything

This is an interesting point that many people don’t realize: relying on as many of your senses as possible when having any given experience exercises your brain and boosts your odds of remembering key details.

Too often, we rely on the most basic senses, like vision and hearing, neglecting the information coming in from our other senses. This may make a person more likely to develop memory loss early in life.

Luckily, you can address the issue right now in very simple ways. Just take any opportunities you get to exercise your senses that you may not use as often as others.

For example, researchers suggest closing your eyes and smelling an unfamiliar dish. With your eyes closed (and without tasting the meal!), try to guess what ingredients were used in making it. This kind of simple exercise can go a long way towards refining your senses and boosting your overall memory and cognition (Source).

Change Your Attitude

One more surprising point worth mentioning: research shows that people who have been exposed to the idea that aging naturally results in memory loss are less likely to perform well on memory tests than those who were not exposed to these ideas immediately before completing the test. Simply believing that you have the ability to guard against memory loss may be all you need to do to prevent it (Source).

Of course, it’s important to reiterate that the information here is not official medical advice. There are instances in which memory loss is a symptom of another condition which requires treatment. This is why you should seek medical attention if you’re struggling with it.

That said, many people experience some degree of memory loss that isn’t linked to a more serious issue. That doesn’t mean those people need to live with this problem. Apply the tips here, and you’ll keep your memory in great shape for years.

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