Understanding Memory Loss

While attending a Neurocognitive Memory Loss course in San Diego, I took the Mini-Mental State Examination and was happy to find out that my score was optimal and that my occasional memory loss was due to task “overload”. It was suggested that using tools like meditation and stress management would be helpful.

We’ve all forgotten a name, where we put our keys, or if we locked the front door. It is normal to forget things once in a while. However, forgetting how to use the telephone or finding your way home may be signs of a more serious memory problem.

People with mild cognitive impairment ( MCI ) can take care of themselves and do their normal activities. MCI memory problems may include losing things often, forgetting to go to appointments and having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age. MCI may be an early sign of more serious memory problems to come and it is important to see your doctor every 6-12 months.

We can take steps to help our memory by learning a new skill, following a daily routine, using memory tools such as calendars, to do lists, getting enough sleep, exercising and eating well, cutting down on alcohol consumption and socializing with others.

Certain conditions such as depression, blood clots in the brain, head injury, thyroid, kidney or liver problems may cause temporary memory problems which can improve when treated.

Dementia is the loss of your ability to think, remember and reason to such a level that it interferes with our daily life and activities. Symptoms may include problems with language, trouble reading or recognizing colors or paying attention. Some people experience changes in their personality and behavior. There are different forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia. The two most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease or a related dementia symptoms include making poor judgements and decisions a lot of the time, problems taking care of monthly bills, losing track of the date or time of the year, trouble having a conversation and misplacing things often and being unable to find them. Many may ask the same questions over and over again, get lost in places they know well, be unable to follow recipes or directions and begin to look disheveled due to lack of bathing or poor eating. Alzheimer’s disease changes the brain and causes large numbers of brain cells to die. Overtime chores like shopping, driving and cooking become very difficult. As the illness gets worse, someone with Alzheimer’s disease will need someone to take care of them. Certain medications can help slow down some of the symptoms.

Vascular dementia symptoms may begin suddenly due to changes in brain blood supply, often after a stroke. Controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, managing diabetes and eliminating smoking can reduce the risk of having more strokes.

A neurologist is one of the health professionals that can diagnose the root cause of memory problems by using brain scans, urinalysis with urine culture, and a neuropsychology evaluation which includes memory testing, sensory testing, balance testing, language and math skills testing. Blood testing can include a complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic panel, B1, B6, B12, zinc, methylmalonic acid, folic acid, ammonia, HIV and syphilis testing.

FInding out what is causing your memory problems is crucial for getting the right treatment and support. Some memory problems get worse over time and It is important to plan ahead and make decisions about legal and financial matters as early as possible.

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