Everyone forgets things from time to time, but with publicity these days so focused on Alzheimer’s, even middle-aged people can worry that forgetting their car keys or their mother’s phone number can signal the onset of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is a subset.
Yet there are many other reasons—usually benign—why people have trouble remembering things. Let’s look at a few.
A top contender is side effects from medications. Sometimes the drugs themselves can include memory impairment as a side effect (statins for cholesterol control and some diabetes drugs, for example); other times it’s the combination of drugs that when taken alone are fine but when taken in combination produce unexpected side effects. The concierge physicians here at MD 2.0 Jupiter are prepared to discuss these concerns with any drug you are taking.
Another possible reason for memory impairment is sleep apnea. Along with many other negative effects, obstructive sleep apnea has been associated with spatial navigational memory, the kind that helps you find objects or addresses. ADHD and minor or “silent” strokes can also cause you to have difficulty remembering things. So can anxiety, depression, an underactive thyroid, and poor nutrition, especially low vitamin B12. As we age, it becomes harder to assimilate B12 from foods, which can lead to fuzzy thinking, confusion, even dementia. Please discuss all these possibilities with us.
Often, though, poor memory is simply attributable to the stress of ordinary, day-to-day life. It even happens to younger people. Look at the parents who leave their children in hot cars. Over 30 infants and children have died that way just this year. How could anybody forget their own child, we wonder. And yet, despite all the warnings, all the tricks to help parents prevent this tragedy, it happens over and over.
The answer is simple: information overload. Think of your brain as a large room. If that room has only five items in it, when asked to locate your keys in there, it’s a simple task. But if that room has 5,000 items, or 50,000 or 500,000, you’ll eventually find them, but it’ll take quite a bit longer. This is what happens to our brains as we age. When we’re children, we may have five items in our brains. But as we grow older, we’re now storing everything from our high school locker combinations to our Aunt Sally’s banana cake recipe, not to mention everything we learned in school, have read in books and newspapers, and seen on TV. And these days we’re probably also on the Internet, with its constant bombardment of information. We need to remember how to do math, the date of our niece’s baby shower, and user names and 10-digit passwords for all kinds of things. Is it any wonder our brains take a little longer to find and retrieve a single piece of information, even if we think it should be a simple thing?
The rule of thumb is, if you can’t find your keys, it’s probably nothing. If you forget what your keys are for, that’s a red flag. Either way, if you’re worried, please call us.