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What Causes Memory Loss In Seniors

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Calcium Is Key To Age

What Causes Memory Loss and How to Prevent It

by University of Leicester

Research at the University of Leicester is offering new clues into how and why cognitive functions such as memory and learning become impaired with age. A paper published recently in a specialist neuroscience journal shows that a crucial factor is calcium levels in specific cells in the brain.

As we get older, our memory starts to fail and it becomes harder to learn new things. It would not be unreasonable to assume that this is caused by brain cells gradually dying off but that doesn’t happen. So what causes age-related cognitive impairment?

The answer lies in synapses, the electro-chemical connections between neurons that use neurotransmitter molecules to create the web of functions within the central nervous system. Professor Nick Hartell from the University of Leicester’s Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour looked at whether calcium levels in the hippocampus, part of the brain necessary for learning and memory, might play a part.

Most research in this area has concentrated on post-synaptic cellsthe ones which receive neurotransmitterssimply because measuring calcium levels in pre-synaptic cells is very difficult. Nick and his colleagues stepped up to the challenge, by developing a special strain of mice which express a calcium-sensing fluorescent protein within the pre-synaptic parts of their hippocampus.

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When To Visit The Doctor For Memory Loss

If you, a family member, or friend has problems remembering recent events or thinking clearly, talk with a doctor. He or she may suggest a thorough checkup to see what might be causing the symptoms. You may also wish to talk with your doctor about opportunities to participate in research on cognitive health and aging.

At your doctor visit, he or she can perform tests and assessments, which may include a brain scan, to help determine the source of memory problems. Your doctor may also recommend you see a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the brain and nervous system.

Memory and other thinking problems have many possible causes, including depression, an infection, or medication side effects. Sometimes, the problem can be treated, and cognition improves. Other times, the problem is a brain disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which cannot be reversed.

Finding the cause of the problems is important for determining the best course of action. Once you know the cause, you can make the right treatment plan. People with memory problems should make a follow-up appointment to check their memory every six to 12 months. They can ask a family member, friend, or the doctor’s office to remind them if they’re worried they’ll forget.

Learn more about cognitive health and Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

Forgetfulness And Memory Loss In Elderly: Causes And Treatment

Written byMohan GarikiparithiPublished onOctober 31, 2016

Forgetfulness and memory loss are commonly seen in the elderly, but these symptoms are not necessarily part of dementia or Alzheimers disease. In fact, there are many reasons for forgetfulness in memory loss in the elderly due to various causes aside from dementia and Alzheimers disease. Which means, you can improve your memory loss and forgetfulness as you age.

It is very possible to remain alert and attentive through aging. Your brain is capable of producing new cells in order to maintain healthy thinking and memory. But for that, seniors must work on improving their brain function as the saying goes, use it or lose it.

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Condition Involving Inability To Understand Or Express Words

Any new speech difficulty should be seen by a doctor immediately because it could be the sign of brain or nerve damage.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: difficulty speaking or understand words or finding the right word, loss of vision, difficulty coming up with the names of common objects or people, arm weakness

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Memory Loss: Whats Normal

Improve Memory Loss with Neurofeedback

Occasional forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. Examples of memory loss that come with age include forgetting to pay a bill one month or occasionally losing track of the date or day of the week. However, memory loss that affects your ability to do everyday activities can be a sign of a serious problem.

Signs of memory problems in elderly adults that warrant a visit to the doctor may include the following:

  • Asking repetitive questions
  • Getting lost in places you know well
  • Having trouble following directions or learning new things
  • Being confused about people, time, and places
  • Having difficulty following a conversation

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How Can I Combat Forgetfulness

Just because you experience forgetfulness doesnt mean your memory is gone for good. There are many habits you can adopt that can help you to keep your mind sharp. First, take some time to get organized. Excess clutter in your life limits your ability to focus, making it harder for you to recall the task at hand. Focus on limiting yourself to the essentials you need to live for instance, you may not need 300 contacts in your phone when you only call 30 of them.

Staying physically and mentally active is your best line of defense against forgetfulness. Find a way to engage with others, whether in casual conversation or competing in a game of cards or a chess match. Take it upon yourself to learn a new hobby, especially one that challenges you physically like jogging or gardening. As long as you are keeping your brain active, your memory can endure for years to come.

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Memory Loss Cause #2 Over

Self-medicating with alcohol, cigarettes, and other substances can affect our memory. While it is important to take your medications as prescribed, using several medications in a day is called polypharmacology, and further complicates health problems as well as the risk of overmedicating. Every added drug further complicates a potentially toxic cocktail, especially if you also drink alcohol. The most common drugs to be prescribed as one ages past 65 are hypertension medication, heart pills, and anti-diabetics. The National Institute of Health has a guide for safe medication use for elders, and recommend the following list of questions to ask your doctor whenever you are prescribed something new:

  • Why am I taking this medication?
  • What specific times do I need to take it?
  • Do I need to eat or drink when taking this?
  • How long can I expect this medicine to start working?
  • Will this interact with any of my other medications?
  • Can I drive when I take this?
  • What does as needed mean?
  • What should I do if I forget a dose?
  • What side effects can I expect?
  • Will I be able to take my normal vitamins with this medicine?

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Support For Every Stage Of Memory Loss

Memory loss can be a challenging journey. So whether you’re just noticing symptoms, or have been facing Alzheimers or another form of dementia for some time, know that you are not alone. Hebrew SeniorLife is here to help you and your loved ones make the most of every moment.

From initial assessments and caregiver support to residential options and late-stage care, we offer a wide range of memory care services and support, including:

  • Outpatient care, offering memory testing and diagnosis, neurology, dementia care management, and caregiver support servicesboth in-person and through telehealth virtual care.
  • Memory Care Assisted Living for full-time residents with mild to moderate dementia.
  • Inpatient Long-Term Chronic Care, offering more than a nursing home for seniors with advanced cognitive decline.

When Should I Be Concerned About Memory Loss

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Its likely that your forgetfulness is part of age appropriate memory impairment . Usually striking in your 50s, AAMI may case you to forget small pieces of information like zip codes or misplace objects you just had. Its only when memory loss becomes repeated and severe that it is worthy of concern. You may spot signs like:

  • Asking the same questions over and over again
  • Forgetting and mixing up words
  • Failing to complete familiar tasks
  • Losing track of the time of year
  • Inability to hold a conversation

Experiencing some of these symptoms occasionally doesnt necessarily mean you need to be concerned. While you should always make note of memory loss, minor incidents of forgetfulness that happen sparingly usually arent indicative of worse problems. Be vigilant in monitoring when you or a loved one experience memory loss when you become concerned, seek out the help of a trusted doctor to determine the cause of your symptoms.

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Does Your Memory Loss Affect Your Ability To Function

The primary difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that the former isnt disabling. The memory lapses have little impact on your daily performance and ability to do what you want to do. Dementia, on the other hand, is marked by a persistent, disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment, and abstract thinking.

When memory loss becomes so pervasive and severe that it disrupts your work, hobbies, social activities, and family relationships, you may be experiencing the warning signs of Alzheimers disease, or another disorder that causes dementia, or a condition that mimics dementia.

Expert Care Tailored To You Or Your Loved One

At UW Health, we understand how concerning it can be when you notice forgetfulness or memory loss in yourself or a loved one.

Our memory care team provides in-depth evaluations for you. If you are diagnosed with a memory loss condition, we work with you and your family to create a care management plan.


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Can Memory Be Preserved During The Aging Process

According to the American Academy of Neurologys practice guideline for patients with mild cognitive impairment, the best thing you can do to maintain your brain health is to exercise twice a week.

Although there is no clear-cut proven link that doing any of the following will help slow memory and thinking skill decline, these are general recommendations for maintaining good health.

Common Memory Loss Causes

Foods to prevent memory loss in the elderly

Forgetting where you put your glasses or keys is a common occurrence even in younger adults. But as we age, it seems that forgetfulness becomes more problematic and occurs more often. Still, few seniors understand what causes memory loss to begin with, and how can you tell if its something more serious. Understanding common memory loss is an important first step in determining if your forgetfulness might indicate a more serious condition.

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Memory Loss Cause #1 Poor Sleep

The average adult sleeps between 7 and 8.5 hours each night, and given how many responsibilities we tend to take on during the day, it can be very easy to slip on the need for a good nights sleep. But, one of the biggest contributors to short term memory loss as well as larger memory issues is simply not getting enough rest. Studies show that about half of adults in the US have sleep disturbances, ranging from insomnia to shortened sleeping hours and nighttime waking.

Sleep issues tend to exacerbate as we march on into old age- in a recent survey of 2,500 men, those over age 70 had a 50% higher chance of having sleep issues than those aged 55. While men aged 55 reported sleep disturbances more often than women, people aged 70 and older of both genders reported similar rates of insomnia and other issues. Another issue that tends to worsen sleep issues is economic disparity- those living in poverty have a higher occurrence of sleep disturbances, particularly those with health issues as an underlying cause of their sleeplessness. Another factor affecting sleep and memory is alcohol- recent studies on alcoholism across different age groups show that sleep is most affected by alcohol in those over age 65.

If you have difficulty sleeping, the following tips may help you treat or curb insomnia:

What To Expect At Your Doctors Visit

The doctor will ask you a lot of questions about your memory, including:

  • How long have you or others noticed a problem with your memory?
  • What kinds of things have been difficult to remember?
  • Did the difficulty come on gradually or suddenly?
  • Are you having trouble doing ordinary things?

The doctor also will want to know what medications youre taking, how youve been eating and sleeping, whether youve been depressed or stressed lately, and other questions about whats been happening in your life. Chances are the doctor will also ask you or your partner to keep track of your symptoms and check back in a few months. If your memory problem needs more evaluation, your doctor may send you to a neuropsychologist.

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When To See A Doctor For Memory Loss

Its time to consult a doctor when memory lapses become frequent enough or sufficiently noticeable to concern you or a family member. If you get to that point, make an appointment as soon as possible to talk with your primary physician and have a thorough physical examination. Even if youre not displaying all the necessary symptoms to indicate dementia, now may be a good time to take steps to prevent a small problem becoming a larger one.

Your doctor can assess your personal risk factors, evaluate your symptoms, eliminate reversible causes of memory loss, and help you obtain appropriate care. Early diagnosis can treat reversible causes of memory loss, lessen decline in vascular dementia, or improve the quality of life in Alzheimers or other types of dementia.

Memory Loss Cause #5 Depression And Anxiety

Does Omeprazole cause memory loss or dementia

Severe depression or grief can sometimes cause forgetfulness and memory loss, as well as generally impacting your ability to concentrate. Feelings of sadness, extreme grief at the loss of a loved one, and other emotional trauma can result in feeling out of touch, or in a fog and forgetting small details.

Anxiety affects between 3% and 15% of older adults, according to Mental Health America, and recent studies show that 2.2% of elders report serious psychological distress during the 30 days prior to the survey. Those aged 45-65 reported distress 4.4% of the time, and also report a high level of anxiety. There are many distressing symptoms of anxiety, including:

  • Chest pains
  • Dizziness
  • Fear of dying

There are many reasons a person can become anxious, from family problems, life changes, money issues, and health worries. Regardless of the reason behind your anxiety, there are a variety of ways you can deal with your difficult feelings at home, and options for when depression and anxiety become hard to live with:

  • Mindfulness meditation has been proven to help anxiety in those suffering from depression as well as issues like PTSD
  • Physical exercise is known to abate depression and anxiety, and moving around, especially outside, can help you feel much better, quickly
  • Relaxing in a soothing environment, with some of your favorite tea, a dark room with quiet music, and some time alone to breathe can help curb many symptoms of anxiety

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Memory Loss Cause #3 Fitness

When surveyed regarding their exercise habits in 2016, only 12.7% of people over age 65 met national exercise standards, which is two and a half hours of aerobic exercise a week. Unsurprisingly, according to recent studies, nearly 75% of those over age 65 are overweight, or obese. Obesity is known to affect the brain in many ways, and can have a very negative impact on our memory and cognition.

Recent research into the processes behind obesity has given us two important ways the brain and fitness interact. Brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor is formed primarily in the brain, and studies show that consistent aerobic exercise increases production of BDNF, particularly in those over age 65, providing a wide range of surprising benefits. In addition to our new knowledge about BDNF, we have new research into the blood-brain barrier and its interactions with insulin, obesity, and brain health. There are strong implications that both BDNF and the blood-brain barrier play a critical role in our continued ability to remember as we age, so it is a good idea to learn more about this new discovery.

If exercising isnt your thing, activities that you might love that work up a sweat are just as effective, like golfing and gardening. Even just doing chores around the house can help you get to those 150 recommended minutes of exercise a week if it gets your blood pumping!

Not All Memory Loss Is A Sign Of Dementia

People of all ages suffer memory loss at times. And lapses in memory may become more frequent as we age. But being unable to recall the name of your neighbor when you meet her on your way to work in the morning doesnt necessarily mean youre developing Alzheimers.

If you are experiencing memory issues, the first thing to do is see your doctor. A complete medical evaluation may uncover an underlying cause for the symptoms youre having a cause that may be treatable. Treatable causes include:

Anxiety/stressA study from the University of Iowa revealed that having high levels of cortisol the hormone released when a person is under stress can lead to memory lapses as we age. You can reduce the stress in your life through meditation, exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep.

A poor dietMalnutrition can create symptoms of mental confusion, uncertainty and slowness. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet helps improve cognitive function, including memory and recall. B-12 which helps with normal nerve function is an important nutrient in maintaining good brain health.

InfectionsInfections can also cause temporary memory loss. One of the most common among seniors is urinary tract infection . Some other symptoms of UTI include a change in behavior, confusion, a decreased appetite and depression. Once treatment is started, many patients see improvement in these symptoms within a few days.

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