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Memory Problems

What is Memory and how does normal memory work?

Brain works like a computer. The way a computer saves data, similarly brain also saves data. Memory is the term used to describe a group of informations stored in the brain. These can be pulled back or recalled at any time required.

There is long term memory and short term memory. In long term memory, the informations are stored for a long time that needed for the day to day life activities. But short term memory stores the information for a short period of time like memorizing a chapter for examination.

Brain has different areas that stores specific kind of information. One memory or information is broken down into different parts before storing. As and when it is recalled, these different pieces are brought together along with the cross-references, just like how the search engine works.

 

What causes Memory Loss? 

It is believed that as the age progresses, mental ability and memory starts declining. It mostly starts from the age after 50. Short term memory is affected first and it becomes difficult to cope with day to day activities. The brain functions will become slow and as a result multitasking or doing many things at a time gets affected.

Forgetting a recent conversation, misplacing things or forgetting names are very common. This may be due to stress and tiredness and may not necessarily amount to a serious memory problem.  Issues such as using inappropriate words, getting lost in familiar places, having difficulty in reading a book or newspaper might require a medical assistance.   

Forgetfulness may occur due to side effects of medication such as sleeping pills, painkillers, antihistamines, blood pressure and arthritis medication, muscle relaxants etc or vitamin B12 deficiency or alcohol over consumption etc. Emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression, can also lead to memory loss. 

 

Is there any test available to find out memory problems?

The very first step in the medical examination is taking a complete history of the patient, by asking various questions in which the doctor tests the depth of patient’s memory problems.. If required, doctor may send the patient to a specialist such as neurologist, geriatrician or psychologist.

Other tests done include

  • Cognitive testing to test mental status thinking ability
  • Blood test to know vitamin B12 status and thyroid disease
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the head
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) to test the electrical activity of brain
  • Cerebral angiography or X-ray for know the blood flow through the brain

 

How can someone live with memory problems?

Problem in memorizing things are seen in all ages, but it becomes worse as the age progresses. To get deal with forgetfulness and to improve memory, the fore most things that one can do is organize things. Making lists, using notice boards, wall charts and planners that are visible at prominent places is the best thing to improve memory. Bymental exercises, one can keep giving work to brain for example; memorizing 5-10 words for each alphabet or to remember whom you spoke in the last 3 days, along with the points of conversation.

Staying social is another way to keep forgetfulness away. The interaction with people around will help the brain to get engaged in different thoughts. Including lots of fruits and vegetables in the diet will help to get adequate nutrients for the brain. Finally getting good sleep that relieves stress, is also important to improve memory.

If the forgetfulness is more and starts affecting day to day life, then it’s time to seek medical assistance.

References:

Forgetfulness: Knowing When to Ask For Help. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/forgetfulness#memory. National Institute on Aging website. Accessed on 23 September 2014.Forgetfulness: It's Not Always

What You Think. http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/forgetfulness-not-always-what-you-think. WebMD website. Accessed on 23 September 2014.Dementia.

http://www.intelihealth.com/article/frequently-asked-questions-faqs. Aetna Inc. website. Accessed on 23 September 2014.