What Causes Memory Loss

Memories are the essence of life. It plays a great role in our lives. Without memory, none of us can recognize anything in the world, not even our names, and how do we look, what we touch, where we are and everything. Our brain helps us identify important things, people, events and emotions. Think about those who suffer from memory loss! How they feel when they can’t recognize anything! After all, what causes memory loss? And can you reverse memory loss?


What is Memory Loss?

In simple term, memory loss refers to inability to remember or recall things.

Memory loss is natural. Most of us often forget small things like names of people we meet, places, things to do etc. Unimportant things don’t get stored in brain and we couldn’t recognize or recall it. For instance, meeting fellow travelers on a train journey. The concern arises when people try to remember important things that they forget often. Such important thing as doctor’s appointment is also forgotten amidst chaotic work.

Although, memory loss is very common in elders, people of all ages are affected by a certain degree of memory loss.

According to Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychoanalysis and a revered neurologist from Austria, there are two types of memory loss. You suffer from memory loss

  1. when brain fails to retrieve something, like retrieving a fact, retrieving the name of a familiar face, etc.
  2. when the particular memory is erased from the storehouse (your brain)

Types of Memory

Memory loss is caused by many factors, from aging to lifestyle and diet. Memory loss is almost reversible with simple home remedies until it turns into extreme brain disorders.

Memory is generally classified into three types- sensory memory, short term memory and long term memory.

Sensory Memory

It refers to memories that are associated with your senses, like touch, smell, voice or sound, etc. Physically challenged people have sharp senses and thus they have good sensory memory.

Short Term Memory

It involves storing, retrieving, and managing the cognitive information stored in the brain but it is there only for short period of time. In most cases, short term memory often indicates what you study, what you see in television news or read in newspapers, etc. If you are a student, you don’t remember what you studied last week for an exam unless you have taken steps to make it a long term memory.

Short term memory is linked with the daily activities, more like passing clouds. It is impossible to remember every activity we do every day.

Long Term Memory

Long term memory is also about storing, recording, managing and retrieving data intended for a long term use.

It can be further classified into two,

  • Semantic memory – storing general facts, names, faces, abilities, etc.
  • Procedural memory – such as driving, riding bike, cooking, etc.

Long term memory is often there till the end of your life. However, this is one of the major areas where most people are more likely to develop memory loss.

What Causes Memory Loss

Aging is the major cause of memory loss. As we grow older, due to aging of cells, it becomes somewhat difficult to remember a lot of things.

Besides, memories are like history. Older you are, more and more memories you have. When you age, the number of years for your memories also increase. Brain needs to function more effectively to expand the storage capacity for memories. It simply means memory overloaded. Aging deteriorates the functions of the body gradually, and brain is not an exception. So, due to poor or reduced functions of brain along with too many memories, people are more likely to suffer from memory loss. Again, brain remembers and retrieves important facts, incidents, etc. forever.

Age and Memory Loss

As mentioned above, age related memory loss happens due to poor functions of brain caused due to general aging. In addition, in the medical context, following circumstances lead to age related memory loss.

  • Poor functions of nerve cells in the brain
  • Aged nerve cells fail to communicate properly and effectively
  • No growth of blood vessels as you grow old, which lead to poor supply of blood to the brain
  • Poor oxygen supply to brain
  • Building up of plaques in the neurons of brain
  • Free radicals affecting the whole body (that’s inclusive of brain)

Beyond these, those who follow healthy lifestyle are more likely to escape from memory loss even in 60s and 70s.

Cognitive Impairment of Brain causes Mild to Moderate Memory Loss

Mild cognitive impairment can occur in any individual, from primary school kid to 70 years old woman (if she escaped the trap of age related memory loss).

Some health conditions like stress and depression also leads to mild cognitive impairment. For instance, due to too much stress, you forget paying your credit card bill before due date.

Stress, Anxiety and Depression also cause Memory Loss

  • Uncontrolled stress may lead to depression, which temporarily leads to short term memory loss.
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Trauma (sometimes, a head injury can lead to permanent memory loss)
  • Death of a loved one / loss of wealth
  • Insomnia

Certain Medications lead to Memory Loss

If you have been taking certain medicine for a longer time, the brain function is more likely to deteriorate mildly. The medicines that may need to be changed include anti-depressants, cholesterol reducing drugs, epilepsy drugs, pain killers, anti-histamines, diabetes drugs and sleeping pills.

Nutritional Deficiency also causes Memory Loss

Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can result into confusion and even dementia. This vitamin is essential for normal nerve function. So, if you eat no or foods like dairy products, meat, and fish, you need to take other foods fortified with vitamin B12 such as fortified cereals. If not, you may suffer from forgetfulness and memory loss.

Also know what are best foods to boost memory!

Certain Health Conditions cause Memory Loss

There are few health conditions (both related to and not related to brain) that may lead to memory loss.

  • Hypothyroidism – Underactive thyroid gland
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency
  • Yellow Fever
  • Nervous weakness
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Stroke (that block major brain blood vessels) and Silent Stroke (that affect smaller blood vessels)

Brain Disorders and Memory Loss

In addition to general health conditions, there are few brain disorders that impact the memory to a great extent.

  • Dementia – An extremity of memory loss
  • Alzheimer’s disease – Degeneration of nerve cells
  • Vascular dementia – Damages to blood vessels that supply blood to the brain
  • Parkinson’s disease – Damages to the brain neurotransmitters and deficiency of the happy hormones called ‘Dopamine’

Apart from the above causes of memory loss, tobacco, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse cause moderate to severe memory loss.

Can you Reverse Memory Loss?

This is one of the most tricky questions! The answer is positive though! You can reverse memory loss to a great extent. Memory loss is not a disease, but a disorder. You cannot prevent aging and the mild memory loss related to aging. But you can slow down the process of aging and prevent major memory loss.

There are a lot of things that can help you reverse memory loss, from simple short term memory loss to memory loss associated with brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. One of the trials conducted by UCLA and Buck Institute succeeded in reversing memory loss even associated with Alzheimer’s. There therapy to reverse memory consisted of the following:

  • Elimination of all simple carbohydrates, gluten and processed food from the diet.
  • Eating more vegetables, fruits and non-farmed fish
  • Meditating twice a day and doing yoga to reduce stress
  • Sleeping 7-8 hours every night
  • Taking melatonin, methylcobalamin, vitamin D3, fish oil and coenzyme Q10 each day
  • Maintaining oral hygiene with electric flosser and electric toothbrush
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Fasting for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast
  • Going to bed after a minimum of 3 hours from the time of dinner
  • Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days every week

This establishes the importance of at least three factors in reversing memory loss- Food, Exercise and Stress free life!

So, how to reverse memory loss?

Eat the proper foods to prevent and cure memory loss

Foods for brain health are rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants provide essential nutrition to the brain and associated organs in order to prevent and reverse memory loss.

Exercise to reverse memory loss

Exercise Helps in two ways.

  1. by improving your heart function so that it can better pump the blood and profuse your brain with a rich supply of blood.
  2. by increasing the growth factors in your brain. Growth factors are nothing but proteins that nourish your brain cells and help them repair small injury to keep them in good health. Exercises increase the levels of these growth factors.

Avoid stress to reverse memory loss

Stress, depression, anxiety, lack of sleep etc. are the major causes for short-term memory loss. Preventing them automatically reverses memory loss. You can yourself see, How stress affects aging!

Apart from these, there are home remedies for memory loss too that can help prevent, cure and reverse memory loss!

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