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Understanding Memory Loss

What is memory loss?

Memory loss is something we all experience in life. We forget familiar names, we cannot remember where we left our wallets and purses the previous evening, and we can't remember everything needed at the grocery store without having a list. This type of memory loss is perfectly normal and as we age, such mild forgetfulness may start happening more and more.

However there are also times when memory loss is not attributed to aging. For example, memory loss is one of the first signs of Alzheimer's disease. Memory loss can also happen after suffering a traumatic experience. It can happen if you suffer from depression or are lonely, sad, worried and even when you're bored. It can result from dehydration, or after falling and hitting your head, or because of the way different medications you're taking interact with one another. Excessive use of drugs and alcohol can also be factors in memory loss.

When does memory loss occur?
Every person is different, but most will begin noticing forgetfulness around mid-life. What happens with memory loss is that over the course of your life, your brain cells start to die off causing a normal decline in your brain's ability to remember.

Sometimes brain cells become damaged, such as after a stroke or a series of mini-strokes. Strokes interfere with the normal flow of blood to the brain, oftentimes decreasing its supply. Head injuries can also damage brain cells and cause memory loss.

Demystifying some common myths associated with memory loss
Memory loss cannot be reversed
This is true if the memory loss is a symptom of another condition or disease such as Alzheimer's. However, if your problems are caused by drug interactions, a change in your prescription may help. If it's due to excessive alcohol consumption, cutting back can help. If it's because of a traumatic experience you may need professional guidance to help you to work through the situation. These scenarios are associated with "reversible" memory loss and as the name implies, the associated memory loss oftentimes can be reversed.

There aren't any exercises for the mind
This isn't true and mind exercises can help sharpen your memory so that you don't forget quite as often. Eating right and exercising provide valuable nutrients and improve circulation to the brain. Playing cards, learning new skills, doing puzzles and brain teasers, and maintaining an active and social life can all benefit your mind and help you stay focused and alert.

Memory loss happens naturally as we age
While this is probably true, it is never a good idea to assume that your forgetfulness is "normal." It could be the sign of another condition. That's why it is very important to share this problem with your medical specialist. Urine and blood tests, CAT scans, and recall tests in which the doctor asks you questions in an effort to determine how well you recall information can all be administered to help rule out other causes of memory loss.

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