Everyone has moments of forgetfulness – you misplace your keys, or forget where you put your phone – but these moments can become distressing, especially as you age.
Many people, especially those with a family history of Alzheimer’s, live in fear of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a condition which affects a growing number of the population.
But there’s no need to panic if you find yourself occasionally blanking on the date of a friend’s birthday or the details of events passed – any number of conditions can cause mild to moderate memory loss, and not all of them are related to Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Here are some common causes of memory loss that may be surprising to you!
1. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that causes individuals to briefly stop breathing throughout the night as they sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, memory loss and learning difficulties are common symptoms of sleep apnea(1). Fortunately, they are reversible with proper treatment. Many individuals with sleep apnea use a specialized mask, known as a CPAP mask, to regulate their breathing while they sleep.
2. Silent Strokes
While the signs of major strokes are obvious, minor strokes that affect smaller blood vessels can cause more subtle symptoms, including memory loss, and many stroke survivors experience memory loss following their strokes(2). Difficulty with memory can also be a sign of an oncoming major stroke, so if you have any other symptoms – including difficulty speaking, changes in mobility, and an impaired ability to think – contact a doctor right away(3).
3. Prescription Medications
While there are drugs that can help individuals manage dementia and Alzheimer’s, some prescription medications can actually cause memory loss, according to the US Food And Drug Administration. A recent expansion on the FDA’s advice on statin risks indicated that statins, one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the US, may in fact cause memory loss(4).
4. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
A lack of vitamin B12 can cause any number of symptoms, including difficulty with short-term memory. When paired with strange sensations such as numbness in your extremities, anaemia, jaundice, weakness, fatigue, and/or paranoia and hallucinations, memory loss may be indicative of a vitamin B12 deficiency(5). Fortunately, there are supplements available to help manage low levels of vitamin B12.
5. Depression And Anxiety
￼￼￼Significant depression can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue and memory loss, according to a 1994 study published in the Western Journal of Medicine(6). Often co-morbid with anxiety, depression is now known to cause cognitive impairment. Many individuals find that when their depression and anxiety are effectively managed, cognitive function is restored as well.
Less common sources of memory loss can include infections and head injuries, as well as brain tumours and substance abuse. If you’re experiencing significant memory loss, it’s always important to speak to a health practitioner. Being aware of the various potential causes of memory loss can also help you collaborate with your healthcare team to figure out just what is affecting your memory.
https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/sleep-apnea-symptoms https://strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs-and- Symptoms_UCM_308528_SubHomePage.jsp
https://www.stroke.org/we-can-help/survivors/stroke-recovery/post-stroke- conditions/cognition/memory-loss https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm107783.htm#cause https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1022548/