Do you occasionally have one of those "senior moments" where you walk into a room and then totally blank out on why you went in there, or scramble mentally to remember the name of a person to whom you were just introduced? These small memory lapses happen to everyone - they are simply part of the brain's constant efforts to sort out, prioritize and file away the information it is constantly receiving.
Minor forgetfulness is a normal part of getting older and generally does not affect your life in any significant way. On the other hand, if lapses in memory start to get in the way of your ability to function normally, there may be some cause for concern. Getting lost in a familiar place or repeating the same sentence several times in a single conversation should raise a red flag signaling that there may be a more serious problem.
However, if you believe you are experiencing significant memory loss, you should not automatically assume that you are in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
Memory is a complex process involving many different areas of the brain, and there are many different causes of memory loss. Most of these are treatable, and even reversible. It is important to remember that in large part, maintaining healthy brain function is under your own control.
Memory loss can be caused by any of the following conditions:
* Stress, Depression, Anxiety
These common psychological disorders may damage the neural pathways in the affected areas of the
brain, leading to confusion and a decreased ability to concentrate.
Stroke can cause damage to many different areas of the brain, affecting the ability to process and recall
* Head Injuries
Concussion and other head injuries can cause temporary memory loss.
* Impaired Thyroid Function
Hypo- and hyperthyroidism create hormonal imbalances which may affect memory.
Certain medications can cause dementia-like symptoms. Even some topical analgesics used for arthritis pain can cause memory lapses if the liver is not functioning properly and cannot flush these chemicals out of the body quickly enough.
* Environmental Toxins
Carbon monoxide, heavy metals such as lead and mercury, pesticides, and even the chemicals in certain hobby items can interfere with memory and concentration.
The hormonal changes which occur during menopause can create temporary disconnects in memory recall.
* Dietary Deficiencies
Insufficient levels of the vitamins B1 and B12 may impair cognitive ability.
* Excessive Alcohol Consumption and Drug Use
Alcohol and recreational drugs deplete vitamin B1 levels, affecting cognition and memory.
* Natural Aging
Aging can cause brain function to slow down somewhat. Simply taking a bit longer to call up a memory may be misinterpreted as memory loss.
* Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
MCI may be diagnosed when memory loss moves beyond minor gaffs to more significant lapses like forgetting the names of your grandkids or getting lost in a familiar location. MCI can be a precursor of Azheimer's disease, but it does not always lead to dementia. While it can be frightening and sometimes disruptive, most seniors with MCI are able to live more-or-less normal lives.
* Alzheimer's Disease
AD is the most common form of dementia. It is degenerative disease caused by the formation of protein deposits in the brain.
* Other Types of Dementia
Senile dementia can have numerous causes, but the results are generally similar. Patients tend to display inappropriate social behavior, emotional disturbance, loss of communication skills, and a deteriorating ability to make judgments. Dementia can result from vascular blockages, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease.
Now for the good news. Amidst all these threats to long-term mental agility, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your cognition and retain your memory skills into your later years. The benefits of these exercises are enormous, both for your mental and your physical well-being.
A detoxification program is highly effective in flushing toxins from the body and improving liver function,
ensuring that the body can continue to cleanse itself of harmful chemicals.
* Memory exercises - crossword puzzles, Sudoku, reading, writing, and specifically designed memory games all help to keep neural pathways humming along.
* Exercise is vital for a healthy mind and body. Regular physical activity improves blood flow to the brain and reduces the risk of memory loss.
* Diets rich in whole grains, lean proteins, and fresh organic fruits and vegetables give you the nutrients you need while avoiding toxins from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
* Memory supplements are very useful in enhancing memory, even reversing memory loss in many cases.
Some effective memory supplements:
- Gingko Biloba;
- Omega-3 fatty acids;
- Vinpocetine, from the periwinkle plant;
- Huperzine A (Chinese club moss);
- Phosphatyl choline, found in egg yolks and soy;
- Pirecetam, a synthetic memory enhancer.
By taking control now, you are giving yourself every chance at a healthy, fulfilling life. No matter what your age, you will benefit from some simple lifestyle choices and memory enhancing techniques.
For more information on memory loss and effective memory supplements that can help visit http://www.IntegrativePsychiatry.net Valerie Balandra NP uses an integrative and functional medicine approach to brain health. For consultations call 941 371-7997.