Memory loss is something all of us can relate to at least superficially. Even the healthiest of us can forget our car keys or cell phones during the whirl of a busy day. Also, we may have relatives or friends who suffer from one of the various severe forms of memory loss like dementia that as of now we have no way to cure or treat effectively.  Dementia refers to the most severe forms of memory loss that affect a person’s ability to function independently.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia followed by vascular dementia. But we will be discussing memory problems associated with other issues that may be prevented or at least controlled. Those issues are cardiovascular disease, heavy metal poisoning, hormone imbalance, inflammation, and insomnia. By managing those issues, we can reduce our chances of these conditions progressing to dementia. 

Many of us who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle do so with the goal of reducing heart disease, but another goal should be to reduce our odds of memory loss in our old age.  At the same time we reduce cardiovascular risk, we also reduce risk of memory loss because the same factors leading to clogged arteries around the heart cause reduced blood flow to the brain. Multiple episodes of heart attacks or strokes kill off more and more brain cells leading to vascular dementia. Vascular dementia can also be caused by gradual deterioration of blood vessels in the brain from high blood pressure or atherosclerosis. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, this is a preventable form of memory loss.

Another preventable cause of memory loss is heavy metal poisoning. There are at least 9 different metals capable of causing decreased brain function if not present in appropriate amounts. These include mercury, zinc, manganese, lead, iron, fluoride, copper, arsenic, and aluminum.  Note that some of these metals are essential to life, but you could be getting too much. If your lifestyle or work history indicates exposure to these, it would be reasonable to test your blood levels of these to confirm or rule out the possibility.

Hormone imbalances are another preventable, correctable cause of memory loss. The imbalance produces various conditions in the body which then increase the risk of memory loss in different ways.  Some of these effects are mild and temporary, and others can be permanent. These imbalances have multiple causes besides menopause or andropause. Thyroid disease, alcohol and drug abuse, nutritional deficiencies, certain pharmaceutical drugs, endocrine disorders, and stress are among the other common causes of imbalance.

Inflammation can be good or bad in the body.  Acute inflammation is a response to a one-time event like an injury to tissue. Our immune system responds with inflammation and repairs the tissue. On the other hand, chronic inflammation (occurs when the repair fails, or the immune system goes wrong and produces inflammation with no reason) can end up destroying tissue including brain cells, leading to dementia.

Insomnia affects memory because the process of sleep causes the body to repair and recondition. This is most evident in the brain. If you experience chronic insomnia your brain will not be as efficient in maintaining memory as it should be.  

Our memories are the most precious parts of our lives. As we see, there are reasons for some forms of memory loss and there are things we can do to prevent those.