Straight, No Chaser: Questions About Memory Loss and Forgetfulness
Are you the type that has a bad memory? Is your memory good when you “want it to be?” Do you just have problems paying attention? Are you concerned about elderly family members suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? This Straight, No Chaser may have some answers to your common questions. Feel free to ask any others you may have.
Am I forgetful, absent-minded or do I have a serious memory problem?
You tell me. It’s not memory loss if you never paid attention to begin with (there’s a joke about husbands and sporting events in here somewhere). It’s certainly the case that the more you focus on remembering whatever it is, the more likely it is that you will.
Ok then, what’s the difference between normal forgetfulness and serious memory loss?
To understand this distinction, think about functionality. We all forget things. It is a clear concern when the things being forgotten involve items needed for activities of daily living (your name, your address, your birthday, etc.).
Why do we forget?
This is a very complicated question and the cause is often multifactorial, include one or several of aging, medical and emotional considerations.
So what about health-related causes of memory loss?
If this refers to non-aging causes, there are several. There a phenomenon called state-dependent learning that’s pretty fascinating. For example, if you learn something while intoxicated, you may not remember it while sober, and you may remember it again once intoxicated again. Alcoholism itself causes conditions (e.g. Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis – these aren’t esoteric; these are out there) in which memory loss is a component. Chronic alcohol use and other conditions that involve vitamin deficiencies (e.g. Vit D, Vit B12) also produce memory loss and deficiencies.
Is it true that stress can cause memory loss?
Yes, both stress and depression can cause memory loss, both emotionally and physiologically.
Should I worry about Alzheimer’s?
No. Alzheimer’s happens whether you “worry” about it or not. What you should do is be concerned about memory loss and trying to prevent premature dementia. First, take steps to protect and build your memory. Second, if you are experiencing memory loss, discuss it with your physician. He or she will know what to do from there.
Ok, then how do I work on my memory?
An active brain is a healthy brain. Of course diet and exercise will keep all of you healthy, including your brain. There are untold numbers of memory games and problem-solving exercises you can perform to train and keep your brain sharp. Learn a new skill or dabble in a new language. In general, socializing and engaging your mind in activities is most of what you need. Alternatively, you can also protect against your bad memory (or inattentiveness). Make a habit of placing your keys, purse/wallet and other needed items in the same place, so when something’s lost, instead of remembering what you did, you can ask yourself “what was I supposed to do?” And yes, guys you can pay better attention to your wives.
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