Memory loss is on the rise not only among the aging but even among the youngsters! Also called amnesia, it is caused by different factors. In order to determine the underlying cause, the first question which arises is whether it came on slowly or suddenly. There are many brain areas that help create memories and retrieve them. If there’s a problem in any of these areas, it leads to memory loss.
Deep inside the medial temporal lobe is the region of the brain known as the limbic system, which includes the hippocampus, the amygdala, the cingulate gyrus, the thalamus, the hypothalamus, the epithalamus, the mammillary body and other parts, many of which are of particular relevance to the processing of memory.
Memory slips can be very distressing for the affected person and their family. They fear the worst and often assume if it’s dementia. Dementia is a huge memory problem that is growing every day. Ten percent of 65-year olds, twenty five percent of 75-year olds, and fifty percent of 85-year olds suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
Stress and anxiety seems to top the list of common causes of memory loss, followed by depression. A study conducted at the University of Iowa found a possible link between stress hormones and short-term memory loss. The Journal of Neuroscience reveal that elevated levels of a natural hormone called cortisol (produced by the adrenal gland), results in memory lapses as age progresses. Jason Radley, assistant professor in psychology says, “Stress hormones are one mechanism that we believe leads to weathering of the brain.”
An important point to be noted is that about 90% of old adults complaining about memory loss don’t suffer from Alzheimer's disease, but it could be from depression, stress, fatigue, sleep-derivation or any other medical issues. There are a wide variety of potential causes based on the type of memory loss.
Dementia vs. Alzheimer's disease
Dementia is memory loss plus shortfall in one or more cognitive areas, like getting lost, getting confused about time and inability of doing usual hobbies. High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of vascular dementia. Alzheimer's disease is another common cause of dementia, so in other words, Alzheimer's is one of the various types of dementia.
Top 9 Causes of Memory Loss
Many things disrupt new memories from getting processed further. For instance, if you cannot absorb new data properly, you cannot remember and register it later. Ageing is the biggest cause as your brain starts shrinking in your 20s. Although your active memory is not affected, your recent memory gets impacted. Some reasons include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic Stress
- Brain Stroke
- Head Injury
- Sleep Deprivation
- Infections like syphilis, huntington's disease, HIV/AIDS, meningitis, etc.
- Nutritional Deficiencies
Broad Types of Memory Loss
- Immediate memories: like sounds; can be stored just for a few seconds
- Short-term/recent memories: like phone numbers, which you can remember only for about 20 seconds.
- Long-term/remote memories: these are permanent memories, which are firmly established in your mind as you've repeatedly gone over them again and again.
Occasional forgetfulness or short-term memory loss is one of the most common memory disorders that interfere with daily life.
What is Short-term Memory Loss (STML)?
It is a condition wherein the individual retains little information for a short time period. It is like a temporary workspace where information is wilfully registered before processing into long term memory.
Top 3 Tips/Solutions to Fix Short Term Memory Loss
People compensate for STML by writing notes or lists of vital information. This may provide an instant solution, but your brain is not challenged enough to remember more. The following ways may prove helpful -
- Train your Brain
- Learn Memory Improvement Tricks
- Take Memory Supplements
The focus has to be on optimizing your brain towards performing better naturally, rather than opting for artificial aids which make it all the more lazy.
1. Brain Training
You need to keep your brain as sharp as possible as you get older. According to studies, the onset of dementia was delayed in seniors involved in puzzles, crosswords and card games. Start with these mental exercises twice a day to stimulate your mental powers from stagnation. Ian Robinson, professor of psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, points out, “It is thought that as we get older, we get out of the habit of learning new experiences leaving our brain unexercised,”
Quick Tip: Did you know brain training is actually fun? You could try Lumosity online brain training. It’s free to start with and offers an extensive variety of memory games that are scientifically-proven for all ages. Daily practice tracks your performance and monitors your improvement levels every day.
2. Memory Improvement Tricks
Memory improvement tools and tricks are always important. So, try focusing on new and interesting ways to keep your memory active. Flex your memory muscles and store more with these memory improvement techniques –
Studies show that it is easy to store 7 random digits comfortably. For instance, you could use the chunking technique to separate data into smaller parts, like hyphenating phone numbers for example. In case of a bigger number, you can break into chunks of 4 digits. So next time you need to remember that difficult phone number, try the chunking method and let your memory do its part of remembering.
b) Mnemonics Devices
If you want to remember a lot of unrelated data thoroughly, try a mnemonics device, a visual technique of memory improvement. For instance, simple mnemonics are as basic as an acronym or rhyme that creates a reference point for information you're trying hard to learn and remember. You can apply these powerful techniques to your everyday life in order to recall data relatively easily.
3. Memory Supplements
Nutritional deficiency is one of the common causes of memory loss. Experts recommend that it is possible to restore proper balance if one eats nutrient-rich foods or takes specific vitamin supplements. This provides essential nutrients to the brain, thus retrieving memories.
Role of Diet and Exercise in Memory Loss
Two ways memory improves with exercise:
- It improves heart function. This means that heart gets to pump blood at a faster rate, thus providing a rich supply of blood to the brain.
- It increases growth factors in the brain. Growth factors are proteins that nourish brain cells naturally, while repairing small injuries, thus ensuring good brain health. Exercise therefore makes your brain a super working machine via increasing the growth factor levels in there.
Certain natural vegetables/herbs serve as timeless aids in treating memory loss. Here are some effective things you could include in your diet:
*Doc-recommended Tip: Ensure you include a minimum of 2 - 3 servings of fish each week. Research studies touted that those eating fish two or three times a week have lesser chances of developing Alzheimer's disease. Also, include abundant folate and B12 in your diet.