Memory Loss: Normal or a Sign of Trouble?

Everyone experiences some forgetfulness, but the FDA explains when to be concerned

Mild memory lapses such as forgetting where you put your keys or reading glasses, though worrisome, are normal, experts say.

But certain memory problems — such as putting your car keys in the fridge — may indicate a more serious issue.

So, what kind of memory issue suggests the need for a medical assessment?

Some examples include: memory loss that disrupts daily activities such as balancing a checkbook, maintaining personal hygiene and driving; or frequent memory lapses such as regularly forgetting appointments or where you parked your car, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a news release.

Other warning signs include forgetting whole conversations, forgetting the names of relatives or close friends, frequently repeating yourself, or asking the same questions in the same conversation.

Another red flag is memory loss that’s getting worse over time.

There are a number of things you can do that might help reduce the risk of developing memory problems: keeping cholesterol and blood pressure levels low; not smoking and not drinking too much alcohol; eating a healthy diet; engaging in lots of social activity; and keeping your brain active by reading, writing, learning a new skill, playing games and gardening.

There are a number of causes of memory loss, including medications; heavy drinking; stress; depression; head injury; infections such as HIV, tuberculosis, syphilis and herpes; thyroid problems; lack of quality sleep; and low levels of vitamins B1 and B12. Many of these causes can be helped with medical treatment, the FDA noted.

“As part of the normal aging process, it can be harder for some people to recall some types of information, such as the names of individuals. Mild cognitive impairment, however, is a condition characterized by a memory deficit beyond that expected for age, but is not sufficient to impair day-to-day activities,” according to the news release.

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