Memory Lapses: What’s Normal And When To Seek Help

Here’s what everyone needs to know about short-term memory loss and long-term memory loss, whether you’re experiencing these memory lapse problems for yourself or know someone who is. Read on to find out more.

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In this article:

  1. Age-Related Brain Problems and Forgetfulness
  2. Cognitive Impairment and Aging
  3. Regular Memory Lapse vs. Dementia
  4. When Should You Seek Professional Help?
  5. What Are the Other Causes of Memory Loss and Forgetfulness?

What You Should Know About Memory Lapse: Signs and Causes

Memory Lapse Definition: When a person forgets a period of time that they would ordinarily remember.

Age-Related Brain Problems and Forgetfulness

It’s common to confuse age-related memory loss and dementia or Alzheimer’s disease with one another. Patients are quick to associate memory loss with more serious problems such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Loss of memory might be one of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or even amnesia, but it doesn’t always mean you have one of these age-related memory loss problems. The aging process is very complicated and it comes with a lot of problems that may affect your quality of life, and if you don’t know when or where to seek medical attention, you could be in danger.

That’s why it’s extremely important for you to learn the difference between harmless forgetfulness and the symptoms or signs of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other brain problems.

Cognitive Impairment and Aging

Cognitive impairment is not an inevitable part of the aging process. Just as any muscle in the body, the brain produces new cells on a daily basis which you can use to combat memory lapse and cognitive decline.

However, if you want to protect yourself against the signs of dementia and other cognitive impairment issues, then you need to take good care of your brain. In fact, making healthier lifestyle choices can already put you on the right track.

Other mental abilities the aging process shouldn’t affect are:

  • The capacity to perform actions and tasks you do routinely like taking a shower, going to the toilet, eating, and other basic skills.
  • Wisdom and knowledge you acquired in life
  • Reasonable judgments and arguments based on common sense

If you notice these abilities starting to decline, check with a medical professional.

Causes of Age-Related Memory Lapse

Apart from aging, here are the most common reasons why one would experience memory loss:

  • The deterioration of the hippocampus. Once this area begins to deteriorate, you would find it hard to maintain your train of thought or remember things that you should.
  • The levels of hormones and proteins that protect the brain. These decline as you grow older.
  • Insufficient blood flow to the brain. Sadly, some vessels can no longer carry blood efficiently throughout the body as a person ages.

Hippocampus Definition: The part of the brain responsible for the creation and use of memories.

Regular Memory Lapse vs. Dementia

You need to know if you are experiencing symptoms of dementia or are just being forgetful. Here are some common signs of ordinary age-related memory lapse which don’t necessarily point to dementia:

  • Losing track of your belongings
  • Forgetting the names of people around you, including your loved ones
  • Trouble recalling past events between you and those you usually spend time with
  • Losing your train of thought in the middle of a conversation

The main difference between dementia and regular memory lapse is the former heavily affects your day-to-day life. You’ll find it much difficult to function normally and it might even put a strain on your interpersonal relationships.

Some signs of dementia you need to watch out for are:

  • Failure to do simple tasks such as dressing up, taking a bath, or even going to the toilet
  • Trouble remembering events where you experienced a memory lapse
  • Repeats phrases and sentences multiple times in a single conversation
  • Being unable to act properly in social events or gatherings

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Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

MCI is the middle stage in between regular memory lapse and dementia. It isn’t as severe as the latter, but it’s definitely more than just age-related forgetfulness.

While plenty of patients with MCI often develop some type of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, you can still prevent the issue from worsening if you know its symptoms. Some warning signs to watch out for are:

  • Forgetting the names of loved ones even after they’ve introduced themselves to you
  • Failing to remember appointments and meetings on a daily basis
  • Extreme difficulty keeping up with a conversation
  • Always losing track of your belongings

When Should You Seek Professional Help?

The brain is a powerful yet sensitive part of the body, and you need to take care of. So it’s important you understand when the right time to seek professional help is.

Getting the right medications and prescription drugs right away can make all the difference in keeping your brain in tip-top shape. After all, prevention is always better than cure.

Generally, you’d want to go to a medical professional once you show any sign of memory lapse. Even if it is an age-related problem, you still need to seek professional advice.

Tip: The importance of making trips to the doctor increases as you age. So make sure you schedule for checkups even if you aren’t showing any warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

What to Expect

If you come in for checkups regarding memory lapse, the doctor will likely ask about:

  • How long you’ve been experiencing these signs of cognitive impairment
  • What you can and can’t remember
  • When the problems started and if they happened suddenly or gradually
  • What things you can’t do because of your memory lapse problems
  • How long you sleep at night. Sleep deprivation is a real issue

What Are the Other Causes of Memory Loss and Forgetfulness?

Other factors which might lead to frequent memory lapse include:

  • Depression: Memory loss and depression both make it difficult for you to concentrate. Plus, the symptoms of depression can give you the impression your medical situation is worse than it really is.
  • Lack of Vitamin B12: The vitamin B12 supports brain function by protecting the neurons. This is especially important among older adults, so make sure to eat plenty of eggs, yogurt, fish, shellfish, and chicken.
  • Thyroid Problems: A malfunctioning thyroid can make the metabolism run too fast. When this happens, you might feel dizzy because of the sudden energy drops.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: As a kid, you might have heard from your parents that alcohol kills your brain cells. Before you dismiss it as an old wives’ tale, you should know there’s actually some truth to it. Years of alcohol abuse can lead to long-term damages that will target your brain and how it functions. As much as possible, limit yourself to about one to two glasses of red wine a day.

Experiencing memory lapses can be very frightening. We know all too well how easy it is to panic at the smallest signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

But with the right support system, medical treatment, and professional guidance, you’ll get through this.

Watch this video to understand more about memory lapse symptoms:

Are you or a loved one experiencing memory lapse symptoms? Share your experience with the community in the comments section below!

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