Small memory gaps like forgetting where the car keys are or what was on the grocery list are normal, though they may be worrisome for many, scientists say.
But some memory problems, like leaving reading glasses in a cupboard, may be indications of a more pressing issue, HealthDay News reports.
What kinds of memory loss suggest that it’s time for a medical evaluation? The US Food and Drug Administration said in a news release that if memory lapses disrupt normal daily activities, such as maintaining personal hygiene or driving, or if memory lapses become increasingly frequent like forgetting regular appointments, it may be time to see a doctor.
Other warning signs that memory problems may be serious include forgetting entire conversations, forgetting the names of close friends and family members, repeating one’s statements or asking the same questions repeatedly in a conversation. A bigger red flag is when memory loss gets progressively worse.
There are many causes for memory loss, including certain medications, heavy drinking, depression, stress, head injuries, lack of sleep, low levels of vitamins B1 and B12, and infections such as HIV, syphilis, herpes and tuberculosis.
Majority of these causes can be treated with medicines, said the FDA.
The news release stated, “As part of the normal aging 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 characterized by a memory deficit beyond that expected for age, but is not sufficient to impair day-to-day activities.”
Dementia is the most serious memory problem, causing increasing memory loss and affecting other areas of thinking. These difficulties become severe enough to interfere with the ability to do daily activities.
There are many causes for dementia, but the most common is Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers. Alzheimer’s causes a progressive loss of brain cells, accompanied by other brain abnormalities that get worse over time.
Around 5 million Americans have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s – a number that is predicted to triple by 2050, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Diseases That Cause Dementia
The FDA report includes a list of diseases other than Alzheimer’s that can cause dementia. These include:
- Vascular Dementia
- Lewy Body Dementia
- Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
- Frontotempoaral Dementioa
- Huntingon’s Disease
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CDJ)
Should You Be Worried?
The FDA report also includes a list of questions to consider when attempting to determine whether or not being forgetful is a something to be worried about. These include:
- Does the memory loss impact daily living?
- What is the frequency of memory lapses?
- What is the nature of the things being forgotton?
- Are there any additional signs of confusion?
- Is the memory loss getting worse?
There are some things that people can do to reduce the risk of developing memory problems. Lowering cholesterol and reducing blood pressure, stopping smoking and abuse of alcohol, getting regular exercise and maintaining healthy eating habits are some of the actions that the FDA says can reduce the risk of memory loss. In addition, the agency suggests that maintaining social interactions and keeping the brain active will also help to reduce the risk.