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It is normal to forget things once in a while.
How can you know if your memory problems are due to a serious condition?
What is memory loss?
Memory loss can be defined as unusual forgetfulness. Occasionally forgetting someone's name or misplacing an item is common and manageable. Memory loss can be short-term or long-term. It is associated with a number of causes such as side effects of certain medications, excessive alcohol or drug use, lack of sleep, depression, stress, lack of certain vitamins and proper nutrition, a head injury, stroke, dementia and more.
What is dementia?
Dementia is not a disease itself but is an umbrella term for a wide range of symptoms that includes the loss of memory and other aspects of thinking that interfere with daily living. Some symptoms are loss of thinking ability, reasoning skills, memory and ability to perform daily activities. People suffering from dementia may be unable to remember familiar things, ask the same questions frequently, repeat themselves, get confused about time and place, and may become lost while driving or in familiar places. These symptoms may vary from mild to severe and may start suddenly or progress over time.
The causes of dementia are numerous, but the most common causes are vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
What is vascular dementia?
Vascular dementia occurs when part of the brain does not get enough oxygen and nutrients due to changes in blood supply. It causes damage to the brain tissue of the affected area. This can cause sudden symptoms such as changes in memory, language, reasoning, coordination, mood and personality. It is important to make efforts to prevent strokes such as controlling high blood pressure, treating high cholesterol, managing diabetes and not smoking.
What is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that causes large numbers of nerve cells in the brain to die. This causes the person to slowly lose memory, thinking skills, good judgment and, eventually, the ability to carry out daily activities. As time goes by, the symptoms get worse and most people with Alzheimer's disease need someone to take care of all their needs.
Alzheimer's disease is currently ranked the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.A. It is the only cause of death on the top ten list in America that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed. It is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer's disease has no current cure, but there is clinical research being conducted all around the world to help find preventions, better treatments and a cure.
What is Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)?
MCI is a decline in usual cognition such as memory, language functions, and reasoning but are not disoriented or confused when doing daily activities, like maintaining finances, managing medication, shopping, driving and usual responsibilities. MCI can be an early sign of Alzheimer's or first stages of progressive decline to other dementias.
What are common misunderstandings about memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer's Disease?
- Do not dismiss signs of dementia as a normal part of growing older; severe loss of memory and cognition is a result of fatal disease, not normal aging.
- Early diagnosis does matter and may benefit your quality of life.
- Dementia, namely Alzheimer's disease, is more than just being forgetful or losing your memory.
- Dementia or 'being demented' is not mental illness or insanity; it is due to physical damage to the brain.
- Not all people with memory loss have Alzheimer's disease. There are other causes for memory loss and dementia. You must speak with your doctor to find out if you have Alzheimer's disease or not.
- Alzheimer's disease cannot be ignored; it impacts millions of people around the world, their friends and family, and it is also the most expensive disease in the U.S.A.
When should I speak to my doctor about my memory concerns?
If you or a loved one has serious concerns about memory loss or thinks forgetfulness is getting in the way of your normal routine, then you should speak with a doctor.
Being proactive and seeing a doctor when you first start having memory problems is greatly encouraged.