01 July 2016

Memory issues could be a sign of dementia

We all experience forgetfulness when we can't remember simple things, but memory loss that disrupts daily activities indicates the need for a medical assessment.

Mild memory lapses such as forgetting where you put your keys or reading glasses, though worrisome, are normal, experts say.

Red flags

But certain memory problems such as putting your car keys in the fridge may indicate a more serious issue.

Take the 'Memory test'

So, what kind of memory issue suggests the need for a medical assessment? Some examples include: memory loss that disrupts daily activities such as balancing a check book, maintaining personal hygiene and driving; or frequent memory lapses such as regularly forgetting appointments or where you parked your car, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a news release.

Other warning signs include forgetting whole conversations, forgetting the names of relatives or close friends, frequently repeating yourself, or asking the same questions in the same conversation.

Another red flag is memory loss that's getting worse over time.

There are a number of things you can do that might help reduce the risk of developing memory problems: keeping cholesterol and blood pressure levels low; not smoking and not drinking too much alcohol; eating a healthy diet; engaging in lots of social activity; and keeping your brain active by reading, writing, learning a new skill, playing games and gardening.

Read: How marijuana clouds memory

There are a number of causes of memory loss, including medications; heavy drinking; stress; depression; head injury; infections such as HIV, tuberculosis, syphilis and herpes; thyroid problems; lack of quality sleep; and low levels of vitamins B1 and B12. Many of these causes can be helped with medical treatment, the FDA noted.

Dementia has many causes

"As part of the normal ageing process, it can be harder for some people to recall some types of information, such as the names of individuals. Mild cognitive impairment, however, is a condition characterised by a memory deficit beyond that expected for age, but is not sufficient to impair day-to-day activities," according to the news release.

Dementia is the most serious form of memory loss. Dementia causes increasing memory troubles and problems with other aspects of thinking. These difficulties are severe enough to impair the ability to do daily activities.

Read: Positivity cuts dementia risk

Dementia has many causes, but the most common is Alzheimer's disease, researchers have found. Alzheimer's causes a progressive loss of brain cells that's accompanied by other abnormalities of the brain.

About 5 million people in the United States have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. That number is expected to nearly triple by 2050, according to research published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Read more:

Memory loss linked to vitamin D deficiency

How B vitamins could boost your memory

Running barefoot may boost your memory