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Signs Your Memory Problems are "Out of Control"

Memory loss signs to be aware of, according to experts. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

We've all had those moments where we can't remember where our sunglasses are and we're actually wearing them or we can't recall what we needed from the grocery store. While those times can be funny or annoying, it doesn't necessarily indicate there's a bigger issue. However, memory loss can happen to anyone and recognizing the signs early on is vital since many conditions can be treatable. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who explained signs your memory loss is out of control and how to keep your mind sharp. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


How To Tell Normal Aging From A Memory Problem

Woman comforting anxious husband

Dr. Mitchell says, "I know I am not "losing it," but there are times when I have walked into my room, and I catch myself thinking, "what was I looking for?". One of my "brightest moments" a few years ago was walking around my house, looking for my cell phone. Genius, over here, was on the phone talking to someone. I laugh thinking about these things, but when I look back and reflect, I am not worried at this time. We've all had those moments where we walk into a room and can't remember what we were looking for. It's normal to occasionally lose your train of thought or have difficulty remembering the name of a person you just met. But what about those times when you can't remember where you left your keys or what you did last weekend? Are these simply senior moments, or could they indicate something more serious? It's essential to distinguish between regular memory changes and those that are cause for concern. For example, memory changes can be a normal part of aging. As we get older, it's common for our brains to slow down a bit and have more trouble recalling information. However, memory problems can also be caused by underlying medical conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

There are some critical differences between regular memory changes and those that cause concern. For example, if you're experiencing frequent memory changes, you'll likely find that you can still recall information after some time has passed or with some clues. For example, you might forget where you left your keys but remember them later when you see them in their usual spot. Or you might forget the name of a person you just met but can remember other important information about that conversation."


How To Keep Your Mind Sharp

good memory

Dr. Mitchell reminds us, "As we age, it's natural for our minds to slow down a bit. We don't process information as quickly, and we may have trouble remembering things. However, there are some things we can do to keep our minds sharp. One of the best things we can do is stay active and engaged. That means keeping up with social activities, learning new things, and staying physically active. Research has shown that people who remain active and engaged throughout their lives tend to have less cognitive decline than those who don't. Another good way to keep our minds sharp is to eat a healthy diet. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables has been linked to better cognitive function. Finally, getting enough sleep is also essential. Sleep helps our brains to rest and recharge, and it's been linked with better memory and mental function. By following these steps, we can help to keep our minds sharp as we age."


What Memory Issues Can Indicate

Portrait of a worried mature woman having problems with her finances

Dr. Mitchell explains, "One of the first things that usually comes to mind when thinking about memory loss is Alzheimer's disease. However, many other conditions can cause memory problems. For example, people with dementia may have difficulty remembering recent events, but they may be able to recall memories from their childhood. Medical conditions such as seizures, head injuries, and thyroid problems can also lead to memory problems. In some cases, memory loss may be a side effect of certain medications. For example, when an underlying medical condition causes memory loss, it is essential to seek treatment for the state to improve cognitive functioning. Additionally, many strategies can help to improve memory, such as keeping a journal, using mnemonic devices, and spending time with friends and family members. Memory problems can be frustrating and even scary."


You Forget Important Information

Senior woman in consultation with her female doctor or therapist

As we age, it's normal to start forgetting things here and there," Dr. Mitchell says. "We misplace our keys or can't remember what we went upstairs for. But when forgetting starts to interfere with our everyday lives, it could signify that our memory issues are out of control. Forgetting important information is concerning for a few reasons. First, it can cause problems at work or school. If we forget deadlines or important meetings, our performance will suffer. Second, it can put a strain on our relationships. Imagine if you forget your anniversary or your child's birthday. Your loved ones will be hurt, but they'll also start to question whether they can rely on you. Lastly, forgetting things can be dangerous. If we fail to take our medication or turn off the stove, we could get hurt. If you're starting to forget things more often than you'd like, talking to a doctor is essential. Memory loss is a common symptom of aging, but it can also be caused by underlying health conditions like Alzheimer's or dementia. A doctor will be able to help you figure out what's causing your memory loss and come up with a plan to help you better manage it."


You Forget Recently Learned information

Senior Hispanic Man Suffering With Dementia Trying To Dress

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Forgetting recently learned information is a concerning sign that your memory issues are out of control for a couple of reasons. First, it indicates that your brain is not correctly storing new memories. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you feel like you're working hard to remember something and it's just not sticking. Additionally, forgetting recently learned information can signify that your existing memories are starting to fade. This can be especially concerning as it may indicate that your memory problems are progressing and could eventually lead to more serious issues."


You're Having Trouble Focusing And Concentrating On Tasks

Pensioner reading message on mobile phone

Dr. Mitchell shares, "If you're having trouble concentrating and focusing on tasks, it's a concerning sign that your memory issues are out of control. When you can't concentrate, it's harder to remember things. And when you can't remember something, you're more likely to make mistakes. This can cause problems at work, at home, and in your personal life. If you forget important dates or appointments or have trouble keeping track of a project at work, it's time to take action. You can do many things to improve your memory, but it's essential to start by getting help from a professional. They can assess your situation and develop a plan to help you get your memory back on track."


You're Feeling Unusually Forgetful And Disorganized

An old man touches his head. Headache. Alzheimer's disease

"As we age, it's normal to experience some forgetfulness and changes in our ability to remember things," Dr. Mitchell states. "However, certain Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease can indicate when memory loss is no longer a normal part of aging. One such warning sign is what doctors call "unusual forgetfulness." This can manifest itself in forgetting why you walked into a room or forgetting recent conversations or events. If you're experiencing this kind of forgetfulness regularly, it could signify that your memory issues are out of control. Another warning sign to look out for is disorganization. This can manifest itself in getting lost in familiar places or having difficulty keeping track of bills or medications. If you've noticed becoming increasingly disorganized, it's essential to talk to your doctor about it. Memory problems can severely impact your quality of life, so it's necessary to get help if you're having trouble with your memory."


Your Family Or Friends Have Noticed That Your Memory Has Been Slipping

senior woman with adult daughter at home.

Dr. Mitchell says, "Your family or friends have noticed that your memory has been slipping, a concerning sign that your memory issues are out of control. As we age, it's normal to occasionally forget where we put our keys or blank out a friend's name. But if you're experiencing more frequent and severe memory lapses, it could signify something more serious. Depending on the cause, memory problems can range from annoying to debilitating. A variety of conditions can lead to memory problems, including Alzheimer's disease, dementia, review medications' side effects, and even depression. Head injuries or strokes can also cause memory problems. If you're concerned about your memory, talk to your doctor.

If you're experiencing any of these problems, it's essential to see a doctor for an evaluation. Memory problems can be caused by various factors, including stress, sleep deprivation, medication side effects, and underlying health conditions. You can get to the bottom of your memory issues and find the treatment you need to get back on track by seeing a doctor."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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