Is Your Memory Normal?
Before you diagnose yourself with Alzheimer's disease, take heart: Experts say some memory lapses are normal.
Time: Memory's Worst Enemy continued...
But memory loss can happen even before we hit our 50s. Many
people even in their 20s and 30s have forgotten a name or an appointment date
or some fact that was on the "tip of their tongue." Memory is tricky, and time
is its worst enemy, says Zola. In fact, shortly after taking in information,
memory traces begin to deteriorate, he explains. "Some things begin to fade
right away, other things fade less quickly, and they're a bunch of different
forgetting curves with different rates of forgetting depending the nature of
the material, depending on how important it is for you, depending on your
stress level, depending on ... all of the things that can affect memory."
If you've ever gotten into heated debate with someone about how
a past event or experience transpired, there's a likely reason. You may
think you have a vivid memory of an experience, but studies show that
after awhile, people probably don't remember events as they actually
happened. Memory distortion -- also a side effect of father time -- explains
this. This is the phenomenon where as time passes our ability to accurately
recall events becomes diminished -- and the longer the period of time that
passes between the event and trying to recall it, the greater the chance we're
going to have some memory distortions and forgetting. Sometimes time distortion
causes us to forget the event totally, Zola explains.
Other Causes of Memory Loss
But even if you think your slips of the old noggin
aren't normal, there could be other reasons for it short of Alzheimer's
- Stress and anxiety
- Metabolic diseases such as thyroid gland diseases, diabetes, and lung, liver, or kidney failure
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency
- Drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter
The good news is, causes of memory loss from many of these
conditions are normally reversible. Zola says depression and stress are the
most common reasons for temporary memory problems.
"If your encoding isn't good, you're not going to get the
information in properly, and so you're going to have difficulty retrieving it
because it isn't there in good form to retrieve. So that's the kind of memory
problem associated with depression, or with attention
deficit disorder, as its name implies, you have trouble paying attention
Stress affects the way the brain processes memory, Zola tells
WebMD. "So it's not so surprising that you have memory problems often during
very stressful states because part of the brain is not engaged in the way it
needs to ordinarily be in order to have good memory."