Brain Exercises To Combat Memory Loss
Just as physical exercise can make and keep your body stronger, mental exercise can make your brain work better and lower your risk of mental decline. Try to find brain exercises that you find enjoyable. The more pleasurable an activity is to you, the more powerful its effect will be on your brain. You can make some activities more enjoyable by appealing to your sensesby playing music during the exercise, for example, or lighting a scented candle, or rewarding yourself after youve finished.
What Happens At Your Appointment
The GP will ask you some questions to try to find the cause of your memory problems.
It might be useful to bring someone else with you who can help describe the problems you’re having.
The GP may refer you to a memory specialist for an in-depth assessment. Further tests, such as scans, may also sometimes be needed.
Any treatment that’s recommended will depend on the cause of your memory problems.
What Happens In Alzheimer Disease
You probably know that your brain works by sending signals. Chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters , allow brain cells to talk to each other. But a person with Alzheimer disease has lower amounts of neurotransmitters.
People with Alzheimer disease also develop deposits of stuff that prevent the cells from working properly. When this happens, the cells can’t send the right signals to other parts of the brain. Over time, brain cells affected by Alzheimer disease also begin to shrink and die.
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What Will The Doctor Do
It can be hard for a doctor to diagnose Alzheimer disease because many of its symptoms can be like those of other conditions affecting the brain. The doctor will talk to the patient, find out about any medical problems the person has, and will examine him or her.
The doctor can ask the person questions or have the person take a written test to see how well his or her memory is working. Doctors also can use medical tests to take a detailed picture of the brain. They can study these images and look for signs of Alzheimer disease.
When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, the doctor may prescribe medicine to help with memory and thinking. The doctor also might give the person medicine for other problems, such as depression . Unfortunately, the medicines that the doctors have can’t cure Alzheimer disease they just help slow it down.
Memory Loss Related To Emotional Problems
Emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression, can make a person more forgetful and can be mistaken for dementia. For instance, someone who has recently retired or who is coping with the death of a spouse, relative, or friend may feel sad, lonely, worried, or bored. Trying to deal with these life changes leaves some people feeling confused or forgetful.
The confusion and forgetfulness caused by emotions usually are temporary and go away when the feelings fade. Emotional problems can be eased by supportive friends and family, but if these feelings last for more than 2 weeks, it is important to get help from a doctor or counselor. Treatment may include counseling, medication, or both. Being active and learning new skills can also help a person feel better and improve his or her memory.
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Dementia And Other Brain Issues
Alzheimers dementia is the most common type of dementia, followed by vascular dementia. They have similar symptoms: confusion, getting lost, forgetting close friends or family, or an inability to do calculations like balance the checkbook. Certain medical conditions thyroid disorders, syphilis can lead to dementia symptoms, and less common types of dementia can have different kinds of symptoms. Alzheimers has a distinct set of symptoms often associated with certain changes in the brain.
Focusing on safety and appropriate supervision, particularly in the home, is critical for all people with dementia. Your doctor or a social worker can help you find support.
Its also important to be aware of two other things that can lead to decreased mental functioning delirium and depression.
Delirium, a rapid change in cognition or mental functioning, can occur in people with an acute medical illness, like pneumonia or even COVID-19 infection. Delirium can occur in patients in the hospital or at home. Risk for delirium increases with age or previous brain injuries symptoms include decreased attention span and memory issues.
Depression can happen at any time, but its more common with aging. How can you tell if youre depressed? Heres one simple definition: when your mood remains low and youve lost interest or joy in activities you once loved.
Dont Say No Dont Or Cant
One of the biggest mistakes in dealing with patients and/or loved ones with memory loss is being negative and telling them that they cant do something. Words like no,” don’t, or can’t create resistance. This comes up regularly with family members when the patient and/or loved one might be still driving, and the caregiver and/or family member has made the decision to stop them from driving. One should never say, You can’t drive anymore. They can still technically drive , and they can get very combative when told no. A way to counter this is to say, I know you still can drive, that’s not even a question, but you know what happened the other day? I was out on the highway and this car cut me off, and I had to make a split-second decision it was really scary Its likely they will say, You know what? I’m having a little trouble with those decisions too. The issue isn’t the mechanical driving, it has more to do with comprehension, and many times this answer works much better than, You can’t drive anymore, which can be construed as confrontational.
You may find a patient and/or loved one up too early or confused about time. Instead of using messages such as, Youre up too early, you need to go to bed, try leading with statements such as, You know, I’m getting sleepy. Id like a little snack before I go to bed, and then gesture for the patient and/or loved one to sit with you.
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Other Causes For Forgetfulness
- Fatigue and lack of adequate sleep. Doctors know that rapid eye movement deep sleep plays a key role in memory.
- Nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin B12, from foods like dairy products, fish and meat, is essential for normal nerve function.
- High stress. If you have too much on your plate, you can become overwhelmed, which will make it difficult to remember all the tasks before you.
- A medical issue. Silent strokes that go undetected can change brain function and deplete memory. Researchers have found that people with forgetfulness may be at a higher risk for stroke.
- Medication. Some drugs list memory loss as a side effect. Metformin, a type 2 diabetes drug, is linked to memory loss, as are some cholesterol drugs.
Symptoms Of Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment is an intermediate stage between normal age-related cognitive changes and the more serious symptoms that indicate dementia.
MCI can involve problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes, but the line between MCI and normal memory problems is not always a clear one. The difference is often one of degrees. For example, its normal as you age to have some problems remembering the names of people. However, its not normal to forget the names of your close family and friends and then still be unable to recall them after a period of time.
If you have mild cognitive impairment, you and your family or close friends will likely be aware of the decline in your memory or mental function. But, unlike people with full-blown dementia, you are still able to function in your daily life without relying on others.
While many people with MCI eventually develop Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia, that doesnt mean its inevitable. Some people with MCI plateau at a relatively mild stage of decline while others even return to normal. The course is difficult to predict, but in general, the greater the degree of memory impairment, the greater your risk of developing dementia some time in the future.
Do You Lose Track Of The Time Date Or Season
Once in a while, we all forget what day of the week it is, but we usually remember or figure it out quickly. More troubling: not knowing what day it is, the time of day or how much time is passingand not realizing that youve forgotten. Additionally, unable to remember appointments or even missing them despite putting it on the calendar or having received numerous reminders by family. These may be signs of dementia, according to Johns Hopkins experts.
Can Dementia Be Prevented Or Avoided
There is little you can do to prevent or avoid dementia. If you have a head injury or brain tumor, ask your doctor if there are lifestyle changes you can make. Youll want to take precautions to avoid additional head trauma or concussions. If youre at risk of stroke, talk to your doctor about possible preventions.
Currently, the American Academy of Family Physicians concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for cognitive impairment.
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Alcohol Or Illicit Drugs
Drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs can impair your memory, both in the short term and long term. From blackouts to an increased risk of dementia years later, these substances can significantly harm your memory, among many other things. Too much alcohol can also cause Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which if treated immediately, may be able to be partially reversed in some people.
When Someone You Love Has Alzheimer Disease
You might feel sad or angry or both if someone you love has Alzheimer disease. You might feel nervous around the person, especially if he or she is having trouble remembering important things or can no longer take care of himself or herself.
You might not want to go visit the person, even though your mom or dad wants you to. You are definitely not alone in these feelings. Try talking with a parent or another trusted adult. Just saying what’s on your mind might help you feel better. You also may learn that the adults in your life are having struggles of their own with the situation.
If you visit a loved one who has Alzheimer disease, try to be patient. He or she may have good days and bad days. It can be sad if you can’t have fun in the same ways together. Maybe you and your grandmother liked to go to concerts. If that’s no longer possible, maybe bring her some wonderful music and listen together. It’s a way to show her that you care and showing that love is important, even if her memory is failing.
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How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Amnesia
You can reduce your risk of the symptoms by reducing your risk for related diseases. Always wear protective equipment like a seat belt when youre in a vehicle, a helmet when youre bicycling and playing sports, and sturdy shoes to keep yourself from falling, etc. Research suggests that you can reduce your risk of developing diseases like Alzheimers with lifestyle choices:
- Exercising. Cardiovascular exercise and strength training may be beneficial.
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet. The Mediterranean diet is highly recommended.
- Staying mentally active. Take a class and break out the crossword puzzles.
- Getting plenty of sleep. Treat your insomnia and sleep apnea.
- Stopping smoking. Theres evidence that shows that smoking increases your risk of cognitive decline.
- Staying in touch with loved ones. Your social well-being is important just like your physical well-being.
- Managing stress. Get treatment if you have symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Protecting your heart by losing weight, lowering your blood pressure and managing your diabetes.
Are Your Conversations Getting Stalled
We all have to search for the right word from time to time. And its normal for this to happen more often as we get older, Yasar notes. Whats not: extreme difficulty remembering words, calling things and people by the wrong words or names and withdrawing socially as a result. Having more and more trouble following, joining or continuing a conversation or even following plot on TV may also be a red flag for dementia risk.
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Are There Different Types Of Amnesia
There are many different names for amnesia and amnesia syndromes. Here are a few common terms you may encounter:
- Retrograde Amnesia: Describes amnesia where you cant recall memories that were formed before the event that caused the amnesia. It usually affects recently stored past memories, not memories from years ago.
- Anterograde Amnesia: Describes amnesia where you cant form new memories after the event that caused the amnesia. Anterograde amnesia is far more common than retrograde.
- Post-traumatic Amnesia: This is amnesia that occurs immediately after a significant head injury. It may involve retrograde amnesia, anterograde amnesia, or both.
- Transient Global Amnesia: A temporary syndrome where you experience both retrograde and anterograde amnesia. Memory loss is sudden and only lasts up to 24 hours.
- Infantile Amnesia: This is the term used to describe the fact that people cant recall memories of events from early childhood. Few people have memories from before the ages of three to five because the brain areas that support memory are still developing.
- Dissociative Amnesia/Psychogenic Amnesia: A mental health disorder where you experience amnesia after a significant trauma. You block out both personal information and the traumatic incident from your memory.
Play To Their Strengths
Sometimes memory loss is so devastating that we all forget that there is a person still in there somewhere. Family members can be distraught by what’s missing and forget that there’s still a lot there within the person, and that they have strengths.
They still have long-term memory, so its up to the caregiver and/or family member to find them. It’s interesting that, medically, doctors do tests on other conditions but when it comes to memory loss, it’s often looked at like a switch: Either they got it, or they don’t. Just like everything else, there’s a progression of memory loss, and its up to the caregiver and/or family member to find out where the patient and/or loved one is, and bolster that.
Strength #1: Long-term memory & stories
Everyone has a short-term memory drawer and long-term memory drawer, and we put information in each. People with dementia and/or Alzheimers have a short-term memory drawer that has no bottom. He/she puts things in, and then they get lost. The long-term memory drawer, however, has a solid bottom. Lots of stories that are retrievable await . Encourage your patients and/or loved ones to tell you stories. You can even use photos to encourage stories. Photos are wonderful long-term memory reminders.
Strength #2: Humor & music
Strength #3: Spirituality
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Forgetting Things Memory Problems Are More Common Than You Think
It’s normal to forget things from time to time, and it’s normal to become somewhat more forgetful as you age. But how much forgetfulness is too much? How can you tell whether your memory lapses are normal forgetfulness and within the scope of normal aging or are a symptom of something more serious?
Healthy people can experience memory loss or memory distortion at any age. Some of these memory flaws become more pronounced with age, but unless they are extreme and persistent they are not considered indicators of Alzheimer’s or other memory-impairing illnesses.
Infections Of The Brain Or Its Lining
Infections like HIV, tuberculosis and herpes can cause memory problems. HIV puts the function of nerve cells at risk by infecting the cells that protect and support them. The virus can also trigger inflammation that can damage the brain and cause forgetfulness. With tuberculosis, memory loss can be a complaint. However, prompt treatment can resolve these problems. Meanwhile, herpes simplex virus can cause a rare neurological disorder called herpes simplex encephalitis. This inflammation of the brain can lead to memory loss. Antiviral drugs may help if treatment is started right away.
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Do You Get Lost In Familiar Places
Losing the way while driving, walking or taking public transportation to a new place is normal. So is getting so absorbed in your journey that you have to reorient yourself to figure out exactly where you are.
Whats not: Driving or walking for a long time without realizing youre lost or completely forgetting where you are, and not asking for help in these situation could be a sign of dementia, Yasar says. You may also forget how you got to a new location, become easily disoriented in familiar places, or lose the ability to read a map or follow landmarks and traffic signs.
Create A Positive Plan Of Action Together
End your talk on a positive note and, if possible, with agreed-upon next steps starting with scheduling a medical evaluation with a primary care doctor or geriatrician.
“If your loved one has anxiety or expresses doubts about seeing a doctor or any part of the plan, try to emphasize that this process will help them, not cause harm,” Bednarczyk says.
In some instances, memory loss not related to dementia is reversible. For instance, doctors can change or adjust medications, or refer a person to a therapist to address depression. And if the diagnosis is dementia, knowing early will enable your loved one and you better prepare for the future.
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