It is important to understand that forgetting things is quite common. Anyone can forget the shopping list at home, misplace car keys and not remember appointments. The mind going blank occasionally is not always a serious problem, but a sign that you need a break. However, when it comes to frequent memory loss, disorientation, brain fog, along with other symptoms, such as irritability or loss of the sense of smell, it could be a sign of issues (such as Alzheimer's or some kind of dementia). You may need to visit your physician and get it checked out.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Head injury (old or new)
- Medications (sleep medications, certain antidepressants, epilepsy drugs and narcotic painkillers)
- Sleep problems
- Suppression of traumatic events (post-traumatic amnesia)
- Lack of focus due to anxiety
- Mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
- Infections, such as Lyme disease and meningitis
- Chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes mellitus
- Brain tumors
- Huntington’s disease
If you realize that you constantly forget things, you must consult a neuro physician for a comprehensive evaluation. The doctor may find it necessary to order some tests and suggest lifestyle modification along with medications.
How can I improve my memory to overcome forgetfulness?
The brain is a complex organ with innumerable connections. Certain exercises and activities, if done regularly, may help strengthen those connections.
The following suggestions may help boost your memory:
- Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. This helps keep your memory sharp. For most healthy adults, the researchers recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (brisk walking) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (jogging) preferably spread throughout the week.
- Just as physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain healthy and might keep memory loss at bay. Try solving crossword puzzles or attempting numerical games. Read a section of the newspaper that you normally skip. Learn to play a musical instrument.
- Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others, especially if you live alone.
- Limit distractions and don’t try to do too many things at once. Think about the task you are working on and try to focus.
- Sleep plays an important role in helping you consolidate your memories, so you can recall them down the road. Getting enough sleep is a priority. Most adults need seven to eight hours of undisturbed sleep a day.
- Diet might be as good for your brain as it is for your heart. Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, lean meat and skinless poultry. What you drink counts, too. Not enough water or too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss.
- Follow doctor’s treatment recommendations for any chronic conditions, such as depression or kidney or thyroid problems. The better you take care of yourself, the better your memory is likely to be. Also, review your medications with your doctor regularly. Various medications can impact memory.
- Set your alarms and use features to organize your dates. Stop multitasking. Concentrate on one task at a time.
- Pay attention to the items that surround the objects you have forgotten. Keep your things organized.
- Try meditation. It strengthens your focus and coordination and improves memory as well.
What are the signs of serious memory problems?
- Asking the same questions repeatedly
- Getting lost in places you know well
- Not being able to follow directions
- Becoming more confused about time, people and places
- Not taking care of yourself, eating poorly, not bathing or being unsafe
Humans are good at remembering complex chunks of information rather than a single detail. It is a lot easier for a person to remember four photographs in detail than it is to remember a list of several two-digit numbers. The brain forms memories through consolidation, attention and emotional arousal. By focusing a little more on things and using proper learning strategies in everyday life, you may be able to retain more information.
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WebMD: "Is It Alzheimer’s or Normal Aging?" https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-or-forgetful
Scientific American: "Why Do We Forget?" https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/why-do-we-forget/