Last updated on July 27, 2022.
Edited and clinically reviewed byPatrick Alban, DC. Written bydeane alban.
Memory loss occurs at all ages. It is important to know the difference between normal and severe memory problems. Know the actions you must take.
A bad memory is frustrating and can be scary.
If your memory isn't what it used to be, you can assume that your memory problems are an inevitable part of aging.
If your memory gets bad enough, you might think you're heading towards dementia or Alzheimer's.
But memory problems can occur at any age, and in fact they are often more the result of lifestyle habits than age-related mental decline.
There are many potential reasons for a bad memory, and luckily, most aren't serious or permanent.
Just as importantly, there are many steps you can actively take toimprove your memory.
20 signs that your bad memory is within normal limits
Some forgetfulness is normaland it happens to everyone from time to time; it's nothing to be alarmed about.
Here are 20 signs that your memory lapses fall under what's considered anormal range:
- You remember the plot of a movie you recently watched, but you can't remember the title. Or you can imagine an actor's face but can't remember his name.
- You can't remember a word, but it's not an impediment to conversation. You usually think about it later or replace it with another word as you speak.
- You know how to get around the city. But when giving directions to other people, you might not remember all the street names.
- You walk into a room and can't remember why you're there. This is a well known phenomenon -walking through a doormay cause a momentary memory lapse.
- Occasionally, he misplaces everyday items like keys, glasses, or the remote control, but more often than not, he remembers where things are kept.
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- Sometimes you call your kids, coworkers, or pets the wrong names, but you definitely know who's who.
- He is known to forget and miss the occasional date.
- You don't always remember what you just read. (It's probably a concentration problem rather than a memory problem.)
- You remember the main points of conversations, but not always the details. So you might remember the make and color of your friend's new car, but forget the model.
- You can usually compensate for your memory lapses so that they have little impact on your daily life or your job performance.
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- Your memory is still good enough to recognize when you are forgetful.
- You generally make good decisions and are rarely bothered by them.
- If you ask someone a question, the answer will be recorded with you. You don't keep asking the same thing over and over again.
- You may not always know the exact date, but you always know the year, month, and day of the week.
- When you use memory tools like notes, lists, and appointment books, you find them helpful.
- Your memory can be upgraded if anyone asks. So when your partner asks you "Do you know what day it is?", you remember that you forgot his birthday.
- You know how to use electrical and electronic appliances at home.
- You can learn new things whenever you want or need to.
- He finds her forgetfulness more irritating than worrisome and can usually laugh about it.
- Sometimes you feel frustrated about your poor memory, but not completely angry or in denial about it.
If your memory isn't much worse than it was a few years ago, that's another indication that there's probably nothing to worry about.
For example, if you've always had a terrible sense of direction, getting lost is now normal for you and not a sign of cognitive decline.
In short, small or short-term problems are usually not a problem.
However, larger or longer lasting changes in your memory deserve a closer look.
Lifestyle Causes of "normal" memory loss
If your poor memory bothers you but is within the normal range, now is the perfect time to examine how your lifestyle is affecting your brain.
Often, a bad memory is simply a side effect of a hectic or unhealthy lifestyle.
A diet high in sugar and unhealthy trans fats can make you confused and anxious or depressed as well.
When your diet is poor, your brain doesn't get the nutrients it needs to build healthy brain cells and form the brain chemicals that control memory.
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To bestressedit makes you more emotional and less able to remember facts.
Untilperda moderateda de sonocan significantly affect mental performance.
It shouldn't be surprising that therecreational drug abuseoalcohol can contribute to memory loss.
Untildehydrationmay temporarily affect mental performance.
nutritional deficienciesthey are surprisingly common and can also be responsible for memory loss and other cognitive problems.
So you can improve your memorygetting enough sleep, eating a brain-healthy diet, and taking active steps to reduce stress.
Causes of memory loss in young adults
If you are a young adult, you may not know why your memory is poor.
We tend to think that memory problems go hand in hand with aging, but unfortunately, memory loss is becoming more common in young adults.
a pollfound millennials (ages 18-34)more likeforget what day it is or where they put their keys than their elders.
Memory loss in young adults is almost always the direct result of an unhealthy lifestyle, which includes lack of sleep, excess stress, poor diet, and recreational substance use.
Excessive use of alcohol and recreational drugs
Excessive alcohol consumptionand recreational drug use are the most serious reasons why young adults have memory problems.
College students are at high risk of an alcohol-induced blackout: they drink to the point where they have little or no memory of blocks of time.
During a power outage, your brain is literallyunable to form new long-term memories.
Many young people are glued to their electronic devices and are avid multitaskers, which isbad news for your mental functioningIn different ways.
Multitasking, which requires the brain to switch between activities,interrupts short-term memory— the ability to retain information for short periods of time.
Not paying full attention to one thing makes it difficult to remember anything.
Many young adults sleep with their cell phones next to them, exposing their brains to potentially harmful electromagnetic fields (EMF) 24/7.
Exposure to EMFs can causesignificant change in levels of brain chemicals, negatively affecting memory, learning, emotions and stress levels.
And finally, the blue light emitted by computing devices is especiallydisruptive to restful brain sleep.
Two hours of pill use before bed has been shown to significantly reducesuppress the formation of melatonin, the body's natural sleep hormone.
Insufficient deep sleep can certainly affect memory, asmemory consolidation occurs during sleep.
15 Signs Your Bad Memory Could Be Serious
Now let's look at the signs that your memory problems could be serious.
You may have noticed some of them yourself, or perhaps well-meaning friends or family members have expressed concern about you.
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You should listen to them.
Studies show thatfriends and familycan detect early signs of Alzheimer's disease even better than high-tech medical tests.
If you can answer yes to these questions, yourmemory lapsesare something to be concerned about:
- When you watch TV or read books, you find it difficult to follow plots.
- You've been told that you repeat yourself during the same conversation or ask the same question over and over again.
- His memory loss scared him. Realizing that you don't know where you are or that you left a burner on the stove after leaving the house are examples of terrible memory lapses.
- You get lost following familiar routes or when you're close to home.
- You often lose things. You put things in weird places. You've even wondered if others are stealing from you.
- You buy items from the store, forgetting that you already have so much at home.
- Sometimes you find it hard to keep up with everyday tasks like paying bills or preparing food.
- You've tried using lists, reminders, calendars, and so on, but they haven't helped.
- You experienced personality changes. Became more restless and impatient or quiet and withdrawn.
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- Sometimes you forget to eat or don't remember if you ate or not.
- He is worried about losing his grip on reality and others have also voiced their concern. They questioned your judgment, your ability to take care of yourself, or mentioned that you acted inappropriately.
- When others mention these lapses, you become angry, defensive, or in denial.
- You have difficulty making decisions about everyday choices, such as what to wear.
- Your friends and family are subtly trying to take over tasks for you.
- You're coping, but daily life is getting harder.
Experiencing these symptoms indicates what is consideredabnormal forgetfulness.
These symptoms may be early signs ofmild cognitive impairment, a stage of cognitive decline that can precede dementia.
What to do if your memory loss seems severe
If you show signs of severe memory loss, you may be concerned that your condition could lead to dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
"Prescription drug interactions may account for up to three out of four cases of dementia.
While this is possible, it's more likely that you have an underlying health problem or are taking a medication that is causing memory problems.
So first, we'll look at these two scenarios and hopefully ease your worries.
Next, we'll look at dementia and Alzheimer's so that you also understand the risks.
Underlying health conditions that cause memory loss
There are manyunderlying causes of forgetfulness.
These include physical and mental health conditions such as:
- bipolar disorder
- brain diseases
- dano cerebral
- COVID 19
- Huntington's disease
- kidney disorders
- liver disorders
- lyme disease
- multiple sclerosis
- nutritional deficiencies
- Parkinson disease
- post surgery
- post-traumatic stress
- the pregnancy
- substance abuse
- thyroid disorders
- West Nile Virus
Medicines that cause memory loss
Memory loss is an extremely common side effect of prescription drugs.
Armon B. Neel, Jr, PharmD, is a geriatric pharmacist who previously wrote the AARP "Ask a Pharmacist" column and authored the insightful expositionAre Your Recipes Killing You?.
He reveals in his book that prescription drug interactions may account for as many as three out of four cases of dementia.
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This is horrible and largely preventable.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs and sleeping pills are two of the worst offenders.
But not all drugs that cause memory loss are prescribed only.
Some of the most popularover the counter remediesFor the treatment of allergies, colds, coughs, skin irritations, insomnia, headaches and pain that cause memory loss by blocking the formation of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter associated with memory and learning.
Is your bad memory due to dementia or Alzheimer's?
If you've ruled out your lifestyle, prescriptions, and health conditions as the causes of your memory problems, you might be worried that Alzheimer's is the only explanation left.
But this is probably still not the case.
It is because.
Dementia vs Alzheimer's: What's the Difference?
There is a lot of confusion about what dementia is and how it differs from Alzheimer's disease.
The terms are often used interchangeably, although they are not the same condition.
Let's clarify the difference.
Dementia is not a specific disease.
It is a general term used to describe a group of symptoms, including impairments in memory, communication and thinking.
there are more than100 underlying health conditions that can cause dementiaand Alzheimer's is just one of them.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, responsible for approximately60% of dementia cases.
Heremaining cases of dementiaare due to a wide range of medical conditions, including:
- neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson's, Huntington's)
- ischemic vascular dementia (as a result of a stroke)
- vascular dementia (also called multi-infarct dementia)
- infectious diseases (such as HIV)
- drug use (both prescription and recreational)
- head trauma
- brain tumors
- nutritional deficiencies
- temporary conditions, such as fever, dehydration, or a minor head injury
So you can see there are still a lot of non-Alzheimer possibilities to rule out.
Most forms of dementia are treatable, and some are even reversible.
And finally, be sure that being diagnosed with a form of dementia other than Alzheimer's diseasenonecessarily means that it will later develop into Alzheimer's disease.
Now talk to your doctor about your memory problems.
If you suspect that your memory problem is serious, I recommend that you talk to your doctor.
Insist that they look for possible underlying health issues and re-evaluate their medications.
The answer could be something as simple as correcting a vision or hearing problem, addressing a nutritional deficiency, or adjusting your medications.
Be sure to take the correct dosage and not expose yourself to harmful drug interactions.
Discuss whether any medications you take areAbsolutely necessary.
Find out if there are better ways to treat your health issues, such as practicing stress-reduction techniques or making changes to your diet, exercise, or other lifestyle factors.
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Before your appointment, download the Alzheimer's Association document10-point dementia symptom checklist.
You can use this checklist as talking points to discuss with your doctor.
Also, ask your doctor if you should take the Self-Reported Gerocognitive Test orwise test, prior to his appointment.
It was designed at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center to detect early signs of memory loss and other cognitive impairments.
You can easily do this written test at home with pencil and paper.
Your test results can help your doctor decide if further evaluation is needed.
It can also be used as a baseline to monitor any changes to your memory over time.
If you have a bad memory: take the next step
People of all ages can experience problems with memory loss.
Having a bad memory can be worrisome, but luckily, it's rarely serious.
However, if you have reason to believe that your memory loss is severe, talk to your doctor.
You must rule out medications and underlying health conditions as causes of your memory loss.
But regardless of your situation, your memory can benefit from adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle.
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Several things can cause problems with your memory, including stress, anxiety and depression. Talk to a GP if memory problems are affecting your day-to-day life. Everyone can forget things from time to time, and this is usually normal. But if memory problems are affecting your everyday life, it's best to see a GP.Why is my memory so bad and how can I improve it? ›
Proven ways to protect memory include following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar in check. Living a mentally active life is important, too. Just as muscles grow stronger with use, mental exercise helps keep mental skills and memory in tone.What are the 3 foods that fight memory loss? ›
What are the foods that fight memory loss? Berries, fish, and leafy green vegetables are 3 of the best foods that fight memory loss. There's a mountain of evidence showing they support and protect brain health.Are memory problems normal as you age? ›
Age-associated memory impairment is considered to be a normal part of aging. It doesn't mean you have dementia. Though you may have difficulties remembering things on occasion, like where you left your keys, a password for a website or the name of a former classmate, these are not signs you have dementia.Why is my brain so forgetful? ›
Forgetfulness can arise from stress, depression, lack of sleep or thyroid problems. Other causes include side effects from certain medicines, an unhealthy diet or not having enough fluids in your body (dehydration). Taking care of these underlying causes may help resolve your memory problems.Why can't I remember the most of my life? ›
Dissociative amnesia is a condition in which you can't remember important information about your life. This forgetting may be limited to certain specific areas (thematic) or may include much of your life history and/or identity (general).What are the 4 types of forgetting? ›
What are the four types of forgetting? According to these psychological theories, the four types of forgetting are interference, decay, retrieval failure, and cue dependence.How can I improve my thinking skills? ›
Play Brain Games
If you want to improve your analytical thinking skills, it may be time to play Sudoku or other brain games like puzzles, chess, or crosswords. The best part of working on brain games to develop your analytical skill set is it is fun and doesn't require a lot of motivation to get started.
- staying physically active.
- getting enough sleep.
- not smoking.
- having good social connections.
- limiting alcohol to no more than one drink a day.
- eating a Mediterranean style diet.
- Test your recall. Make a list — of grocery items, things to do, or anything else that comes to mind — and memorize it. ...
- Let the music play. ...
- Do math in your head. ...
- Take a cooking class. ...
- Learn a foreign language. ...
- Create word pictures. ...
- Draw a map from memory. ...
- Challenge your taste buds.
The Mini-Cog test.
A third test, known as the Mini-Cog, takes 2 to 4 minutes to administer and involves asking patients to recall three words after drawing a picture of a clock. If a patient shows no difficulties recalling the words, it is inferred that he or she does not have dementia.
Introduction: The five-word test (5WT) is a serial verbal memory test with semantic cuing. It is proposed to rapidly evaluate memory of aging people and has previously shown its sensitivity and its specificity in identifying patients with AD.What is the best medication for memory loss? ›
Cholinesterase inhibitors are the first choice of treatment for memory loss. The doctor may also prescribe the single-dose drug combination Namzeric to treat moderate to severe memory loss.What drink improves memory? ›
- Coffee. 1/12. If you can't get through the morning without a java jolt, you're not alone. ...
- Green Tea. 2/12. ...
- Berry Juices. 3/12. ...
- Kombucha. 4/12. ...
- Green Smoothie. 5/12. ...
- Turmeric Tea. 6/12. ...
- Beetroot Juice. 7/12. ...
- Ginseng Tea. 8/12.
Getting enough vitamin B12 may give you more energy, improve memory, and make learning new things easier. It also has been shown to help improve mood and lessen depressive symptoms.What helps improve memory? ›
- Be physically active every day. Physical activity raises blood flow to the whole body, including the brain. ...
- Stay mentally active. ...
- Spend time with others. ...
- Stay organized. ...
- Sleep well. ...
- Eat a healthy diet. ...
- Manage chronic health problems.
- Asking the same questions repeatedly.
- Forgetting common words when speaking.
- Mixing words up — saying "bed" instead of "table," for example.
- Taking longer to complete familiar tasks, such as following a recipe.
- Misplacing items in inappropriate places, such as putting a wallet in a kitchen drawer.
- Benzodiazepines. ...
- Beta-blockers. ...
- Tricyclic antidepressants. ...
- Statins. ...
- Narcotic painkillers. ...
- If you suspect drug-related memory trouble.
Memantine (Namenda) is approved by the FDA for treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. It works by regulating the activity of glutamate, a messenger chemical widely involved in brain functions — including learning and memory. It's taken as a pill or syrup.How do I stop being careless and forgetful? ›
- Figure out why you made the mistake.
- Keep track of patterns with mistakes.
- Prepare for tasks.
- Slow down.
- Leave time to double-check.
- Stay in the moment.
- Do one thing at a time.
- Make checklists and to-do lists.
- Repetition works wonders. ...
- Use mnemonic devices. ...
- Indulge in relaxation techniques. ...
- Playing games helps keep the brain active. ...
- Rehearse aloud. ...
- Teach someone else. ...
- Add activity when studying or rehearsing. ...
- Take up a new hobby or class.
Overview. Amnesia refers to the loss of memories, including facts, information and experiences. Movies and television tend to depict amnesia as forgetting your identity, but that's not generally the case in real life. Instead, people with amnesia — also called amnestic syndrome — usually know who they are.Can anxiety cause memory loss? ›
One part of the body affected by anxiety and stress is the nervous system, which plays a primary role in basic functions like memory and learning. As a result, persistent anxiety and memory loss are associated.Do people with ADHD have bad memory? ›
ADHD Is Associated With Short-Term Memory Problems
Although they do not have problems with long-term memories, people with ADHD may have impaired short-term — or working — memory, research shows. As a result, they may have difficulty remembering assignments or completing tasks that require focus or concentration.
Forgetfulness is a common occurrence in every household. We often mistake it for carelessness or a casual attitude, and it might just be that. However, forgetfulness can also be an early sign of mental disorders like Dementia, Alzheimer's Dementia, or even Depression.Why can't I remember things that just happened? ›
“Stress, an extra-busy day, poor sleep and even some medications can interfere with making and recalling memories,” Yasar says. “And we all have moments when a name or the title of a movie is right on the tip of the tongue, but those events are different from the kinds of lapses that may be warning signs for dementia.”What memories are hardest to forget? ›
Painful, emotional memories that people would most like to forget may be the toughest to leave behind, especially when memories are created through visual cues, according to a new study. The researchers found that their subjects could not intentionally forget emotional events as easily as mundane ones.How can I make my brain smart again? ›
- Read more. ...
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. ...
- Start exercising daily. ...
- Learn a new language. ...
- Look for learning opportunities. ...
- Lower your screen time. ...
- Practice meditation. ...
- Explore video games.
Doing crossword puzzles, Sudoku games, jigsaw puzzles and other games that rely on logic, math, word and visuospatial skills are great ways to increase brainpower. These types of games require multiple cognitive abilities, which challenges your brain and improves processing speed and memory.Can you train your memory to be better? ›
Our memory is a skill, and just like other skills, it can be improved with practice and healthy overall habits. You can start small. For example, pick a new challenging activity to learn, incorporate a few minutes of exercise into your day, maintain a sleep schedule, and eat a few more green vegetables, fish, and nuts.
If you are looking for ways to improve your memory and concentration and also relieve stress, reading will help. The brain-stimulating activities from reading have shown to slow down cognitive decline in old age with people who participated in more mentally stimulating activities over their lifetimes.Is it OK to have bad memory? ›
Memory problems are more common than you think. It's normal to forget things from time to time, and it's normal to become somewhat more forgetful as you age.Why is my memory so bad in my 20s? ›
Research tracing the gradual decline of memory says that the process begins at the ripe age of 20 and as brain cells slip away, gone forever, the chemicals that help the brain work efficiently are also not being produced in the same quantities as when you were a fast-thinking teen.At what age is memory strongest? ›
Our ability to remember new information peaks in our 20s, and then starts to decline noticeably from our 50s or 60s. Because the hippocampus is one brain region that continues producing new neurons into adulthood, it plays an important role in memory and learning.