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August 29, 2016

3 Surprising Reasons for Memory Problems

by Amanda MacMillan

Sooner or later, almost everyone worries about Alzheimer’s disease. Forget the name of an acquaintance? Can’t find your keys – again? Have no idea why you went into the living room, even though you know there was something you meant to do when you got there? Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s normal and what’s not, especially as we get older.

Here’s the good news: When it comes to memory issues, Alzheimer’s disease isn’t always to blame. In fact, occasional forgetfulness or misplaced items can be totally normal, says internist Jeanne Morley, MD, at North Shore University Hospital -- and even when problems seem more worrisome, they’re often caused by something temporary and treatable. If you’re feeling forgetful, here are a few things to consider.

Your medications

Many different drugs can cause confusion, drowsiness or memory problems – and that’s true of over-the-counter medications as well as prescription ones. Some common offenders include antihistamines for allergies and medicines for depression, anxiety and sleep problems.

“Sleeping pills are a big one,” says Morley. “People will take them at night and then may feel groggy in the morning and have difficulty focusing or remembering things.”

If you take more than one medication, drug interactions are possible – and a result could be memory problems. Your risk also goes up if you take medications with alcohol.

Your hearing

“A lot of older people have problems with hearing, which can make them seem disoriented or forgetful because they’re not getting the information or the social cues they should,” says Morley.

Unfortunately, this can make seniors feel less comfortable socializing with others – and the isolation that follows can actually raise their risk of cognitive decline. That’s one reason it’s so important to diagnose and treat hearing problems as early as possible.

Your sleep habits

A night or two of tossing and turning shouldn’t affect your mental state too much, says Morley, but more than that can cause problems not just with mood but with concentration and memory, as well. If you’ve been feeling particularly forgetful lately, ask yourself if you’ve been getting the sleep you need.

Stress, depression and menopause are all common causes of insomnia. Sometimes, your sleep quality could be suffering without you even being aware of it: excessive sleepiness during the day, depression, trouble concentrating, even waking with a sore throat can all be symptoms of sleep apnea, for example. If you suspect something is robbing you of sound sleep at night, and clouding your head during the day, talk to your doctor about healthy solutions for getting more shuteye.