When the memory goesMonday, February 23, 2015
BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE
WHILE everyone forgets things from time to time, memory loss becomes a problem when it interferes with normal, everyday activities.
Some people suffer from what is considered short-term memory loss, while for others the problem is long-term.
Short-term memory loss occurs when a person can remember incidents from years ago, but is fuzzy on the details of things that happened a short time ago.
Long-term memory loss is difficulty remembering events that occurred years ago. The person is, however, able to recall incidents in the recent past. It is believed that stress is a large factor in long-term memory loss.
Professor Keith Josephs, consultant of neurology at Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota, told All Woman that the most common cause of memory loss, regardless of gender, is Alzheimer's disease.
"Memory is stored in an area of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus shrinks as a result of Alzheimer's disease. But it is very uncommon to have memory loss at age 40. Typically it occurs after age 65."
So while modest decline in the ability to remember some things is quite common with ageing, there is a difference between normal changes in memory and the type of memory loss associated with illnesses like Alzheimer's and dementia.
Less serious memory loss can occur as a result of treatable or common things. Some of these are:
Lack of sleep. Getting too little sleep or waking frequently in the night can lead to fatigue, which interferes with the ability to retrieve information stored in the memory.
Depression and stress. Depression can make it difficult for persons to pay attention and focus, which has been proven to impact negatively on the memory. When a person is tense and the mind is over-stimulated or distracted, the ability to remember can suffer. Stress caused by an emotional trauma can also lead to memory loss.
Nutritional deficiency. Deficiencies in vitamin B1 and vitamin B12 can affect memory.
Medications. Medications like antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, tranquilisers, sleeping pills, and some pain medications are said to be some of the causes of forgetfullness.
Alcohol, smoking, drugs. Excessive alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use can contribute to memory loss. Smoking harms the memory by reducing the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain. Studies have shown that people who smoke find it more difficult to put faces with names than do non-smokers, while illicit drugs can change chemicals in the brain that can make it hard to recall things.
Head injury. A severe blow to the head from a fall or accident can injure the brain and cause both short and long-term memory loss. However, memory can return gradually as the person improves.
Stroke. Getting a stroke often causes short-term memory loss.
Josephs said there are no scientifically proven ways to rebuild memory or to avoid memory loss.
"Most likely some women and men are destined to have memory loss from the time of birth," he said. "With that said, it appears that higher education is associated with less memory loss. Additionally, depression, sleep problems and sedentary life may worsen memory loss."
The neurosurgeon said that all studies to date on the infamous ginko biloba and other vitamins, for example vitamins E and C, have not been proven to be of benefit when it comes to improving the memory.