Published on: October 23, 2016
by Anna Fleet for Active Beat:
We all lose track of our keys every now and then, but bouts of forgetfulness every now and again happen to us all. However, if your brain farts are becoming more and more frequent every day, your chronic forgetfulness may indicate an underlying health condition. No, it’s not necessarily Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but perhaps one of these six health conditions that are causing memory loss…
1. Chronic Stress
Chronic stress can literally have a negative domino effect on health over time. Even over the short term, chronic stress can impact the brain and begin to deteriorate memory due to loss of sleep, poor diet, and lack of physical activity.
According to a 2006 study published by the National Institutes of Health, chronic stress over the long term exposes the brain and body to certain hormones (i.e., cortisol) and specific areas of the brain (i.e, hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex) can suffer lasting changes.
2. Alcohol Abuse
Not to dredge up bad memories, but many of us have embarrassed ourselves when drinking. Many more were none the wiser until they woke up the following morning or were reminded by a loved one or friend. No one likes to make a fool of themselves at the company holiday party, however, drinking too much is often the culprit.
A 2014 study conducted by University College London monitored the drinking habits of 5,054 men and 2,099 women over a ten year period, testing for memory during this period. Findings showed that middle aged men who consumed 2.5 drinks daily increased their memory loss by 6 years—compared to men who drank less or not at all. Interestingly, women didn’t suffer the same effects.
According to research from Healthline.com, depression may be the underlying reason for bouts of confusion, memory loss, and blips of forgetfulness. For instance, studies link an individuals negative emotional state (i.e., depression, anxiety, and stress) with short-term loss of focus, decision making skills, and impeded memory.
Take it from the finding of this Columbia University study, which found that during a bout of depression, many individuals have difficulty making routine decisions (i.e., get out of bed, get dressed, eat, shower, etc.). Suddenly, simple cognitive processes we normally don’t think twice about can become impossible decisions.
4. Health Conditions that Mess with Memory
Medical research tells us that deficiencies of many sorts can have a negative impact on memory. For instance, 2014 research out of Harvard Medical School notes that lagging B12 vitamin levels can impede sense of taste and smell, as well as memory function.
Limited blood supply to the brain—due to chronic health conditions like a thyroid disorder, high cholesterol or blood pressure, liver or kidney malfunction, or diabetes—can also mess with memory.
5. Medications and Memory
It should be no surprise the numerous over-the-counter and prescription medications can negatively impact memory. Dr. Lauren Drag, a neuropsychologist and clinical instructor of neurological sciences at Stanford University lists anti-depressants (i.e., Paxil), pain medications, drugs that treat muscle spasm (i.e., Flexiril), sedatives (i.e., Valium), gastroesophageal reflux meds (i.e., Zantac), and even antihistamines (i.e., Benadryl) can mess with a patients memory.
Dr. Drag explains that anticholinergic medications can impede acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain and result in forgetfulness. If you suspect a medication is causing memory loss, talk to your doctor about your medications before making any changes.
6. Physical Exhaustion
It’s no shocker that sleep and memory go hand in hand. So if you suffer from a sleep disorder (i.e., sleep apnea) your brain may suffer reduced blood supply, which over time can eat up decision-making abilities and memory.
Research out of Harvard Medical School identifies what researchers call the “four horsemen of forgetfulness”—depression, stress, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. However, researchers note that the “horseman” can be counteracted with some deep, quality shuteye.
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