Good news about memory loss…really

Photo: S. Cordier-Dirikoc/GE Healthcare

Here’s the good news: Some forms of memory loss are fixable.

There are people with memory loss who suffer, not from Alzheimer’s, but from reversible conditions that may be confused with Alzheimer’s. So read on and take a little comfort from this post….

Me, I don’t know of one person who isn’t afraid of getting Alzhammered. With this dementia,  you lose memory, lose who you are and who you were. In the later stages, you can’t even understand the present. There’s not one good thing to say about this disease.

However, there’s plenty to say about memory loss that may mimic Alzheimer’s:  First, there are several potentially reversible causes of memory loss and everybody should know them. Why? Two reasons: Because no one should leap to the conclusion she has a fatal disease such as Alzheimer’s just because she has problems with memory…and because these causes have the possibility of being fixed, unlike Alzheimer’s, which now has no cure.

And if a condition can be treated…well, then memory loss is not a sentence, but a symptom. So, if you think your memory is beginning to falter, consider these eight possible causes, none of them Alzheimer’s:

Eight potentially reversible causes of memory loss (Courtesy Mayo Clinic.)

1. Side effects of medications or medication combinations; 2. Infections, including infections of the urinary tract; 3. Diseases of the thyroid, kidney, liver and pancreas; 4. Depression; 5. Pressure on the brain from a hematoma or tumor; 6. Nutritional deficiencies, such as B-12; 7. Alcoholism or misuse of prescription drugs; 8. Something called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalaus or NPH.

(Actually, this last cause, NPH, isn’t normal at all. It’s excess cerebrospinal fluid building up in the brain.)

One more cause to ponder…low vitamin D

Just this month the Archives of Internal Medicine featured a research report linking low levels  of vitamin D and worsening memory. The study is probably the first in the world to look at vitamin D and memory decline over time–from the start of the study until the end, six years later. It tracked mental agility and vitamin D levels. The results were clear. According to the researchers: “Low levels of vitamin D were associated with substantial cognitive decline”. (Cognitive decline most commonly means the memory isn’t working well.)

Now, there are also very serious causes of  memory loss such as stroke, Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s dementia among others, but we’ll save those bad boys for another day. Here we’re just considering the brighter side of memory loss—the eight potentially reversible causes above. (If you are going to get a disease, make it sure it can go into reverse!)

If you want to swim out into this information sea on your own, a safe medical haven is always www.mayoclinic.com—a wonderful website about all the things we think are wrong with us.

And, as usual, if any of the above seems to apply to you or yours, discuss it with your health care professional. If he or she asks about your meds, remember that over-the-counter drugstore aids—such as those for sleep and allergy—are indeed medications.

And maybe pass on the information here with a link to this site, www.geezerdiary.com. After all, how many people know that a problem down in the urinary tract could impact the geography between your ears? Or that getting low on sunshine vitamin D is linked to worsening memory?

But now you know and that’s a beginning. I hope this helps with any back-of-the mind fears you may have had about your memory.

Photo by Sean Mcgrath/Flickr

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