Other Causes of Memory Loss

Beyond Dementia and Alzheimer's

Dementia remains one of the most common causes of memory loss in the elderly. But it is not the only cause.

There are multiple medical conditions that can cause memory loss as well.

When memory loss first occurs, it can be very frightening. You, as a family member, may not even be aware of the onset. But when it occurs suddenly, the changes can be very dramatic.

You can also help prevent memory loss by being aware of the conditions commonly associated with it.

If you have noticed a sudden change in your loved one, review these conditions and drug interaction and discuss them with your doctor.

Do not assume your physician is aware of all of the options.

Although dementia remains one the most common causes of memory loss, we would often see patients diagnosed with dementia when they actually had a Urinary Tract Infection.

Medical Causes of Memory Loss

There many medical conditions that can cause a person to have lapses in memory. Some are acute conditions, and some are chronic.

  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency: This lab should be run every year as part of an annual physical. Low levels of Vit B12 deficiency often presents with memory loss. Eating foods rich in Vitamin D, such as meat and dairy products, or taking supplements, can help prevent memory loss associated with this deficiency.
  • Vitamin D Deficiency: Often refereed to as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is actually a hormone. New research is finding a link between lower levels of Vitamin D and memory loss in older adults. Vitamin D is inexpensive and easy to take. I personally recommend, and take, NOW's Vitamin D Capsules.

  • Diabetes: This chronic condition can lead to a decline in mental function due to high levels of cortisol. It is crucial for diabetics to keep their blood sugars under control to prevent complications.
  • High Blood Pressure: This can lead to hardening of the arteries and decrease vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Exercise and diet are the best ways of controlling blood pressure. Using an affordable blood pressure monitor can help you keep track of trends.
  • Low Thyroid Levels: Hypothyroidism can lead to memory loss. This is another test that should be run annually.
  • Brain Tumors: People who suffer from brain tumors often have memory issues, along with other symptoms depending on the location of the tumor. A CAT Scan should be run to eliminate a tumor if the symptoms warrant it.
  • Infections: The elderly especially are likely to have memory problems with infections, most commonly UTI's sepsis (a blood infection) and respiratory infections.
  • Depression: Depression in the elderly is more common than you might think. Left untreated, these individuals are more likely to develop memory problems.
  • Strokes: Small strokes, called TIA's, can lead to small areas of damage in the brain. Sometimes the only symptoms these people have is small mental changes. The risk for a devastating stroke is always higher in people who have had TIA's.

Prescription Causes of Memory Loss

All medications, both over the counter and prescriptions, have side effects. But there are some medications that are more likely to cause problems with memory.

If you find that memory issues have occurred after a recent change in medications, talk to both your doctor and your pharmacist.

There may be a different medication that can be used to treat the same issue, or you may decide that the side effects of the medication is not worth the risks associated with it.

  • Sedatives: Anti-anxiety and sleep medications, such as Xanax or Ambien, are often associated with memory loss.
  • Statins: This is a group of medications used to treat high levels of cholesterol. Lipitor, one of the most popular of the statins, indicates about a 2% side effect of memory loss. Although this is rare, it is something that should be considered.
  • Incontinence Meds: Drugs like Ditropan are effectively used to treat some types of incontinence. There have been a few studies that indicate that there could be a connection with memory loss, especially if the drug dosage is too strong or if the patient takes too many of the prescribed medication.
  • Indigestion Drugs: These medications, such as Tagament or Zantac, can have side effects of memory loss. Since some of these medications are over the counter, your loved one may not realize the potential for dangerous side effects.
  • Drug Interactions: One of the most common causes of memory loss in the elderly is drug interactions. Sometimes the addition of a new drug can cause interactions with medications your loved one is currently on. Your pharmacist can help look at the entire medication profile and help alert you to potential interactions.

Understanding all the different causes of memory loss can help you prepare and prevent some types. Keeping as healthy as possible, eating right and getting some level of exercise every day, is probably the best thing you can do.

Staying active, both mentally and physically, as been proven to help prevent the onset of aging complications, including memory loss.

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