Picture this: You’re chatting with a friend, and you’re excited to tell them about a great book you just finished. Suddenly, you realize you can’t remember the title of the book. Or maybe you’ve found yourself forgetting a neighbor’s name, or even wandering the aisles of the grocery store unable to remember what you’re shopping for. While memory problems can be frustrating and sometimes scary, a decline in memory function is actually a perfectly normal part of aging. Most of these memory lapses aren’t cause for concern – although some can be signs of memory conditions like dementia. But what causes memory loss, anyway?
What Causes Memory Loss?
Age-Related Memory Loss
A certain amount of memory loss is perfectly normal as we age. Normal age-related memory loss is usually minimal, and shouldn’t affect your daily life. Age-related memory loss is often linked to a few key changes in brain function including the deterioration of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain crucial for the formation and retrieval of memories. We also see a decline in certain hormones and proteins responsible for protecting and repairing brain cells. Finally, some older people may experience decreased blood flow to the brain. While these changes are a normal part of aging, there are several other treatable factors that can impede memory function:
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Fatigue or dehydration
- Alcohol abuse
- Medication side effects
Causes of Dementia
Dementia refers to a group of memory problems, not necessarily a specific disease. The tricky part? Dementia symptoms can result from a wide variety of causes, including injuries, diseases, and infections. Keep in mind that these symptoms are typically much more severe than standard memory issues that come with aging. Dementia symptoms can include memory failure, diminished multitasking ability, problems with language or communication, and problems decoding nonverbal cues. There are several potential causes of dementia, including all of the following:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular cognitive impairment
- Traumatic brain injury
- Parkinson’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
When to See a Doctor About Memory Loss
While memory loss is a normal part of getting older, there are several signs that it’s time to check in with your doctor. If your memory loss begins to seriously affect your life, or is noticeable enough to concern your family, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible. Don’t panic: There are lots of potential causes of memory loss outside of dementia. A physical examination can help your doctor assess your personal history, risk factors, symptoms, and any potentially reversible causes of memory loss. If your doctor does find the potential for dementia, an early diagnosis can dramatically increase your quality of life.
So what causes memory loss? The simple answer is that memory loss is a perfectly normal part of aging. The more complicated answer: You may need to check in with your doctor to pinpoint the causes of your memory loss, especially if it’s started to negatively affect your quality of life. If your memory lapses start to dramatically affect your lifestyle, call your physician as soon as possible. It can also help to surround yourself with experts, like the staff at a senior living community who can recognize signs of memory loss and provide comfort and support.
If you’re looking for a relaxing senior living community with a focus on preventative healthcare, contact the Crossings at Riverview. Our welcoming community provides peace of mind for families and their loved ones by offering assisted living, respite care, and memory care services. Tour our community, meet our friendly staff, and see our amenities first-hand. Our goal is to make our community feel like home for all of our residents. To schedule a tour, contact us online. We look forward to meeting you!