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Top 5 Causes Of Memory Loss And How To Manage Them

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health coverage, explores the top five causes of memory loss and how to manage them.

“Memory is a precious aspect of our cognitive function, allowing us to recall cherished moments and important information and navigate our daily lives. However, memory lapses can become more frequent as we age, leading to concerns about cognitive decline,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“While some memory loss is a natural part of ageing, certain underlying causes can accelerate this process.”

Age-Related Memory Decline

The natural process of ageing plays a pivotal role in memory decline. As time passes, our brains undergo structural and functional transformations that can notably influence our memory capabilities. Mainly, the hippocampus, a critical brain region responsible for memory formation, tends to experience a reduction in size as we age. This phenomenon directly affects our capacity to both generate and recall memories.

How to Manage Age-Related Memory Decline

Stay Mentally Active: Keeping your mind engaged in activities that require cognitive effort is essential for preserving memory and cognitive function. Activities like solving puzzles, reading, playing strategy games, or learning new skills challenge your brain and can help maintain the connections between brain cells and improve memory retention. Consider taking a new hobby, learning a musical instrument, or participating in educational courses to keep your brain sharp and active.

Stay active and eat a balanced diet: Physical activity boosts blood flow to the brain, encourages the development of new neurons, and lowers the risk of cognitive decline. Ensure your diet is high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B complex, essential for brain health.

Socialise: Human connection is emotionally rewarding and essential for cognitive function. Loneliness and social isolation have been related to an increased risk of cognitive decline, so keep connected to your social network by spending time with friends and loved ones.

Stress-Related Memory Decline

When stressed, your body produces hormones like cortisol as part of the “fight or flight” response. Although this response is helpful in immediate threat situations, chronic stress can result in a prolonged and excessive release of cortisol. However, too much cortisol can impact your brain’s structure and function, affecting your memory.

The emotional toll of chronic stress and anxiety can create a vicious cycle. Stressful situations can lead to anxiety, which, in turn, can exacerbate stress levels. This continuous cycle can further impact memory and cognitive function.


How to Manage Stress-Related Memory Loss

Practice stress-reduction techniques: Meditation entails concentrating your attention and removing distracting ideas. Regular meditation can help reduce stress by encouraging relaxation, emotional well-being, and cognitive performance. Even a few minutes of mindfulness meditation every day can make a difference.

Establish a routine: A routine enables you to prioritise tasks and allocate time efficiently, reducing the pressure of last-minute rushes and overwhelming to-do lists.

Physical Activity: Regular physical exercise, whether walking, jogging, swimming, or dancing, can be a potent stress reducer.


Sleep-Deprivation Memory Decline

Throughout the night, your sleep cycles through various stages, including rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Each of these stages contributes to different aspects of memory consolidation.

During REM sleep, your brain is highly active, and this stage is crucial for consolidating procedural and emotional memories. It’s when your brain sorts through the day’s experiences, deciding which memories to keep and which to discard. During NREM sleep, your brain replays and reinforces these memories, helping to store them in your long-term memory bank.

When your brain doesn’t get sufficient restorative sleep, it struggles to process new information efficiently. Sleep-deprived individuals often experience forgetfulness, as their brains have not had the opportunity to solidify memories properly. This can manifest as needing help remembering names, appointments, or essential facts.


How to Manage Sleep-Related Memory Loss

Prioritise sleep: Aim for between seven and nine hours of quality sleep every night to improve memory function.

Create a sleep-conducive environment: Maintain a comfortable temperature, minimise noise, and ensure a dark room for optimal sleep conditions.

Avoid caffeine and electronics before bedtime: These can interfere with sleep quality, so avoiding use hours before bedtime is best.

Medical Conditions Relating to Memory Loss

Certain medical conditions can lead to memory loss. Common examples include Alzheimer’sAlzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and mild cognitive impairment. These conditions often result from genetics, lifestyle, or vascular health.

How to Manage Memory Loss Due to Medical Conditions

 Seek medical evaluation: If you suspect a medical condition is causing memory problems, consult a healthcare professional for a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis.

Follow treatment plans: If diagnosed with a medical condition, follow prescribed treatment plans, medications, and lifestyle recommendations.

Cognitive training: Some individuals with mild cognitive impairment may benefit from cognitive training exercises designed to improve memory and cognitive function.

Substance Abuse Related Memory Loss

One of the primary mechanisms behind substance abuse-related memory loss is the disruption of neurotransmitter systems in the brain. Many drugs, including alcohol, opioids, and stimulants, alter the balance of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate. These alterations can impair communication between neurons and lead to memory problems.

For example, chronic alcohol use can interfere with the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for the formation of new memories. In contrast, prolonged drug use can result in atrophy of brain regions, particularly the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, impulse control, and memory.


How to Manage Memory Loss Due to Medications and Substance Abuse

Consult your healthcare provider: If you suspect a medication is affecting your memory, speak with your doctor about potential alternatives or adjustments.

Seek support for substance abuse:  If you or someone you love is battling with substance abuse, reach out to a healthcare professional or a support group.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health coverage provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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