How to repair your memory

You walk into a room only to realise you don’t have a clue what you went in there for. The standard explanation for this kind of memory loss is that your brain is simply overloaded with information — or you are getting old. Migraines, the menopause, chemotherapy, anaesthetics and depression are also causes for short-term memory loss. There are also other causes of short-term memory loss such as not eating enough meat to long-haul travel. However, in some people, in particular the elderly, the obvious worry is dementia, an umbrella term for a set of symptoms, including impaired memory and reasoning, and a decline in language and other thinking skills. There are a number of possible causes or memory lapses, and what you can do about them. Insufficient Stomach Acid Vitamin B12 found in meat, is thought to be linked to a healthy memory. Vitamin B12, found in foods such as meats, fish and dairy products, is known for its important role in producing red blood cells, but it’s also thought to be linked to healthy memory. A recent U.S. study found that a lack of vitamin B12 was linked to memory and thinking problems. The theory is that B12 plays a role in protecting the myelin sheath — an insulating layer around nerves. Any damage to this and the nerve impulses slow down, affecting memory, amongst other things. Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when the body fails to absorb enough of the vitamin though the small intestine. The nutrient is found in foods such as meat, fish and dairy products, so vegetarians need to be careful to ensure they are getting enough. Other possible causes include pernicious anaemia (an autoimmune condition in which the body starts attacking the cells in the stomach, preventing the absorption of nutrients) and Crohn’s disease (a form of inflamatory bowel disease that also affects nutrient absorption). A more common trigger is simply getting older — high levels of stomach acid are essential for the body to absorb the vitamin, but as we age our stomachs produce less. This can lead to older people being mistakenly diagnosed with dementia when they’re actually suffering from B12 deficiency. This can be detected with a blood test — and taking a supplement will rectify the problem promptly. High Blood Pressure If you’re under 45 and forgetful, it might be worth having your blood pressure taken. Indeed, the higher the blood pressure reading, the more likely the problem. High blood pressure damages the inner linings of the arteries, ultimately making the artery walls thick and stiff. The good news is it’s never too late to stop any decline. Exercising, eating healthily and losing weight will all improve your memory — and health. Underactive Thyroid If you’re tired, gaining weight, depressed and feel your memory isn’t what it was, it could be as a result of hypothyroidism. The condition, which comes on gradually over months, occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce a hormone known as thyroxine. Causes of an underactive thyroid include auto-immune conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease, when the body starts attacking itself, a virus or sometimes medication. A simple blood test is used to diagnose the condition, then hormone replacement tablets, called levothyroxine, will be prescribed and symptoms can improve rapidly. Statins There are reports that these cholesterol-lowering pills improve the memory. The more fat-soluble the statin (which means it passes through cell membranes quickly and hangs around in the body’s fat continuing to have an effect), the greater propensity it has to cross the barrier that protects the brain from any poisons or toxins that may be in the blood. Simvastatin is the most fat-soluble of the statins. Migraine If you suffer migraines, you may be at risk of transient global amnesia, which is more common in the over-50s Essentially, your recall of recent events, up to the previous 24 hours or so, vanishes for several hours — you cannot remember where you are or how you got there, but you do remember who you are and the people you know well. Taking aspirin — which maintains or increases blood flow to the brain cells, increasing their oxygen supply — might be a way of preventing or treating chemo brain. However, you should always consult your doctor before taking aspirin regularly. Arthritis or Asthma Drugs Corticosteroids are drugs taken by countless thousands for a variety of reasons from asthma to arthritis. It is believes that long-term use in high doses, for six months or more, could lead to problems with recall. Corticosteroids can actually kill off brain cells, shrinking the brain and in particular the hippocampus. And it is considered that this kind of memory loss is rare.

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