When memory seems to slip, many older people wonder if they are sliding into Alzheimer's disease. Most of the time, the cause of that forgetfulness is something more common and easily remedied.
Disturbances in mood and sleep are among the most common causes of memory problems in adults. Stress and anxiety make it harder to concentrate and lock in new information. Depression can hobble memory, as can alcohol consumption. Some medications can interfere with memory, as can some medical conditions.
A conversation with a doctor can help pinpoint the cause of memory slips-especially if the change is sudden or uncharacteristic. "If it's worse than it was a few months ago, or somebody is asking you about it, that would definitely be something to see a doctor about," says Dr. Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at Cambridge Health Alliance and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Sometimes it's useful to just give the brain a break. "As you get older, it may become more difficult to maintain a high level of attention for several things at once," Dr. Fabiny says. "Dividing your attention can definitely cause you to think you are having memory problems."
Read the full-length article: "The four horsemen of forgetfulness"
Also in the February 2013 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch:
- Heartburn drug side effects: Should you worry?
- How to get ready for a total knee replacement
- Options when erectile dysfunction drugs don't work
- Do men need annual check-ups?
The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $16 per year. Subscribe at www.health.harvard.edu/mens or by calling877-649-9457 (toll-free).
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