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The #1 Cause of Memory Loss, Says Science

Read on to discover whether you're at risk.

You can't remember where you put the keys. It seems to be happening more often. What does it mean? Memory loss can be a distressing experience. The good news is that it doesn't automatically mean you have a serious condition like dementia. Read on to find out the #1 cause of memory loss—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


The #1 Cause of Memory Loss

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The #1 cause of memory loss is simply getting older. Some forgetfulness is normal and doesn't indicate a serious problem.

"​​Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging," says the National Institute on Aging. "As people get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, they don't remember information as well as they did, or they lose things like their glasses. These usually are signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems, like Alzheimer's disease."

Read on to find out when memory loss can indicate something more serious.


Other Causes of Memory Loss

Blond Woman can't sleep at night.

Memory loss can have many causes, including:

  • Poor sleep
  • Depression
  • A bad reaction to medication
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Head injury
  • Not eating a healthy diet, leading to a deficiency in B12
  • A condition called mild cognitive impairment

In many of these cases, a doctor can treat these conditions, resolving the memory loss.

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When Memory Loss Becomes Serious

Comforting Senior Husband Suffering With Dementia

Memory loss isn't always a symptom of dementia, but it can be. Dementia is a serious progressive brain disorder that can affect a person's cognition, judgment, and ability to live an independent life.

Symptoms of dementia include: 

  • Memory changes that interfere with everyday life
  • Trouble remembering recently learned information or recent events
  • Difficulty communicating, such as trouble finding the right words
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Having trouble following recipes or directions
  • Becoming confused about time, people, and places

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When to See a Doctor

older man with dementia talking to doctor
Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke

If you notice signs associated with dementia, and they aren't improving, it's important to see a  doctor, so they can rule out other causes for your symptoms and determine whether it is dementia or another cognitive problem. You may need to be referred to a geriatrician, neurologist, or neuropsychologist.

With early diagnosis and treatment, it's possible to slow the progression of dementia and maintain mental function.

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Get Through the Pandemic At Your Healthiest

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Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael