As you rush the kids out the door in the morning before they miss the bus, you spend the next few precious minutes trying to remember where you left your car keys. When you finally find your keys in the mail basket, you realize that you forgot that today is your turn to host your kids’ scouting meeting. Does this scenario sound all too familiar? Most of us will experience forgetfulness at some point in our lives. But when it becomes prevalent, it may indicate another underlying reason.
The World’s Most Complex Computer: Your Brain
Research performed by the Cleveland Clinic suggests that you have approximately 50,0000 random thoughts and images a day. Your brain has the overwhelming task of sorting through these thoughts and processing the significant ones. Your memory capacity allows you to store and retrieve thoughts, images, and past events at will.
Although your brain’s data storage isn’t limitless, you could never run out of memory space in a lifetime. While your brain stores the information you deem valuable, it can’t pay attention to everything at once. You will use this stored information to create habits and memories.
Memory and Age
One of the common symptoms of aging is being forgetful. As you get older, your brain doesn’t produce as many new brain cells, and you may have a few misfired communications between cells. It usually isn’t a big issue for seniors who are reasonably healthy and follow a healthy lifestyle.
In generations past, seniors who had memory problems were often dismissed as “senile,” deriving from the Latin word for “old.” Today, we know that lower brain function and memory loss isn’t always due to age. Many people live into their 80s and 90s without the first sign of forgetfulness.
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition characterized by a gradual loss of memory and brain function. At the beginning of the 20th century, German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer described a patient with a debilitating memory loss and function. A later autopsy revealed layers of plaque on portions of the deceased patient’s brain.
The eponymous disease is diagnosed in 50,000 new patients in America each year. It slowly robs people of their thoughts and precious memories. No wonder Alzheimer’s has been labeled “The Long Goodbye.”
While all people who have Alzheimer’s experience dementia (terminal forgetfulness), not all people with dementia have Alzheimer’s. While there are many types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is the most common.
Other types include vascular dementia, Lewy bodies, frontotemporal disorders, and mixed dementia. Of course, just because you may forget a few things now and again doesn’t mean you have Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Reasons for Forgetfulness
If forgetfulness becomes a pattern that is disrupting your life, you should consider talking to your primary healthcare provider. Here are seven common reasons why you may be more forgetful than usual.
1. Chronic Stress and Anxiety
Wouldn’t it be a dream to have a stress-free life? Chalk it up like a dream because it’s not possible. One of the reasons that you’ve become forgetful lately could be excessive stress. While life itself is a series of joy and anxiety, too much stress can wreak havoc on your body and brain.
Have you ever said that you have “too much on your mind?” Stress has a way of overloading your brain with so much information; it becomes harder to remember things. The results can be chronic anxiety and a glitch in your memory capacity.
Although you can’t do away with stress entirely in your life, you can reduce it. There are many ways to minimize stress, so you have less anxiety and feel better. Things like taking a walk, journaling, yoga, or talking to a friend can do wonders to ease your stress and decrease your forgetfulness.
Because any mental illness affects the brain and nerves, it’s no surprise that it can also make you forgetful. According to recent statistics, over 24 percent of the United States’ population experience clinical depression each year. It’s believed that many more cases go undiagnosed.
A hallmark symptom of depression is the loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable. When depression makes you feel hopeless, and like burying yourself in the sand, it will be harder to remember things. If you have difficulties remembering things and have other signs of depression, consider seeing a mental health professional.
3. Alcohol Abuse
Have you ever had a little too much to drink at a party and forgot about it the next morning? Alcohol is notorious for blanching your brain cells and making you forget where you are or what you are doing. Chronic alcoholism not only harms your body, but it can do permanent damage to your brain.
If you’ve experienced blackouts from being intoxicated, you may already see brain trauma signs, such as your forgetful and have an impaired memory capacity. Keep your body and mind healthy and happy, keep alcohol consumption minimum, and never mix it with medication.
When your healthcare providers prescribe medication to you, the reason is that the benefits will outweigh any possible side effects. If you are having difficulties with your memory, have you considered that your medication may be causing it? If it’s not a side effect, it could be two or more drugs interacting.
Any drugs that may cause sedation, such as antidepressants, tranquilizers, or some blood pressure medications, may cause you to be forgetful. Talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns and see if an alternate drug may be used. Remember that you should never stop or change the dosage of any medication without medical supervision.
5. Lack of Sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep, nothing is right in your world. First, you toss and turn and watch the clock until it’s time to awaken in the morning. You are in a brain fog for most of the day and have problems remembering anything. The usual remedy of chugging coffee and eating empty calories only backfires because it only makes you more exhausted.
You come home from work and collapse on the couch for a long nap. Unfortunately, your extended resting causes you to be wide awake in the middle of the night. If you are trapped in this maddening cycle, it’s going to make you forgetful.
Try to get at least 7-9 quality hours of sleep at night. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol a couple of hours before bedtime. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature that is conducive to sleeping.
6. Thyroid Conditions
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland seated under your larynx in your neck. Your body’s cells depend on the thyroid to function correctly. It produces two types of hormones called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) sent throughout your bloodstream. To keep your thyroid healthy, you need enough iodine in your diet.
Some people have a condition called hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid is overactive and produces too much thyroxine. This double dose can cause the metabolism to ramp up, resulting in rapid heartbeat, increased bowel movements, and anxiety. People with hyperthyroidism often experience racing thoughts, weight loss, and an intolerance to heat.
On the other hand, some people have hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroxine. Their symptoms are also opposite, including weight gain, lethargy, and difficulty concentrating. Your memory glitch maybe from an underactive thyroid.
If you have memory problems and are forgetful, you may suspect it’s your thyroid. Your healthcare provider can do a simple blood test to diagnose. A prescription of thyroxine can fix the hormone imbalance, and you can see improvements in your physical and mental health. Making sure you have enough Vitamin A and iodine in your diet may help the symptoms.
7. Not Enough Exercise
You already knew that exercise keeps your body healthy and fit, but did you know it also benefits your mind? If you overeat and don’t get enough exercise, you can become overweight and then obese. Countless studies show a disturbing connection between obesity, lower brain function, and memory problems.
When you exercise, primarily aerobically, you get more oxygen into your body, and your brain produces more hormones responsible for the well-being, mood, and cognitive ability. Having a daily exercise regimen is crucial, especially in your senior years, when remembering things can be a problem.
Have you ever heard the old saying that you will lose it if you don’t use it? The same goes for your brain and memory function. Keep your mind active by reading, doing puzzles, and doing other activities that make you think. Your brain will be more likely to remember things and not be as forgetful when it is fit and healthy.
Although it’s quite frustrating, everyone forgets things. However, you don’t want to be so forgetful that it affects your life and those around you. Consider these tips and discover other ways that you can keep your mind active for a lifetime.