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Is Your Memory Failing You? 10 Causes Of Memory Problems That Aren’t Alzheimer’s

By Beverly Matoney Medically reviewed by Kyle Aldinger, MD, Shelby Medical Associates

You’ve misplaced your keys…again.

You forgot the name of that little cafe you love…again.

And when was that appointment again?

Forgetfulness is a part of life, and memory loss can be a part of aging. Of course you are concerned when things just won’t come to your mind when you want to recall them. But should you worry about something more serious like Alzheimer’s disease?


Not all memory loss is caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Sometimes forgetfulness can be temporary due to life challenges. Certain medical conditions can be the cause of memory problems. And occasionally, even your medication can have mild memory loss as a side effect.


Let’s look at a few ways you can experience memory problems that are not related to Alzheimer’s disease.


1. Life challenges – Are you going through a stressful time? Have you recently lost someone close to you? Is your job or home life experiencing major changes or disruptions? All of these can cause stress and anxiety, which are known to affect memory and attention.

What you can do:

  • Find a support group to help you through your challenge. Often sharing with people in the same circumstance can help you regroup and center your thoughts.
  • Try adding exercise or yoga to your daily routine. These may reduce your stress and anxiety and bring your thoughts into focus.
  • Talk to your doctor about your situation to see if there are other options for helping you through a difficult time.



2. Depression – Are you feeling sad, anxious or hopeless? Have you lost interest in hobbies or activities? Is your energy level down? When depression weighs on you, you may suffer memory loss and confusion. Researchers have found that depression can interfere with short term memory recall.

What you can do:

  • Talk to someone about how you are feeling. Making others aware of your depression can help you cope.
  • Share your symptoms with a counselor or therapist. They can help you find ways to manage your depression.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications that can help you with the symptoms of depression.



3. Medicines – Certain side effects of some medications cited by the US Food and Drug Administration include memory loss and confusion. This may be an indication that changes should be made to your prescriptions. Your doctor will be able to evaluate all of your medications and tell you if adjustments are in order.

What you should do:

  • Don’t try to adjust medications on your own. Tell your doctor about all the medicines and supplements you are taking to see if they may be causing your memory loss.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions about changing your medications and follow up to make sure the adjustments are working and to see if your memory has improved.



4. Sleep disorders – Do you get enough restful sleep? Is your sleep broken by frequent waking?  If insomnia, sleep apnea, or other medical problems prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, your brain may be unable to form certain types of memories, like the ones that help you remember where you put your keys or the directions to that cafe.

What you can do:

  • Keep a sleep journal to see if your sleep patterns are not optimal. You can also note any memory problems you experience and see if there may be related to your poor sleep..
  • Talk to your doctor about scheduling a sleep study. If poor sleep is causing memory problems, there are medicines or machines that can put an end to your interrupted sleep.



5. Underactive or overactive thyroid – Are you feeling sluggish? Do you have trouble concentrating? Have you gained or lost a lot of weight recently? Do you feel like you’re in a fog? If your thyroid is not functioning properly, you can experience these and other symptoms, including memory problems.

What you can do:

  • Talk to your doctor about checking your thyroid activity. Whether it is high or low, there are drug therapies to help with both. Once your thyroid is regulated, follow up to see if your memory has improved.



6. Lacking nutrients – Do you eat well? Are you dieting? Does your diet include healthy choices such as foods containing plenty of B vitamins? B12, B6 and B9 are all important for healthy brain function, nerve development and mood stabilization. Any deficiencies in these nutrients may cause loss of memory, confusion and even lead to dementia.

What you should do:

  • Be sure you are getting plenty of vitamin B-rich foods in your diet. Foods such as poultry, fish, chickpeas, bananas, peas, beans, citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables deliver plenty of B vitamins to help your brain function and memory.
  • Talk to your doctor about supplements you may need to take to boost your B-vitamin intake.



7. Stroke – A major stroke can damage parts of the brain that control memory, but even small mini-strokes, known as silent strokes, can impair memory centers and cause memory loss. One study even showed that certain types of memory loss can be a sign of increased risk of stroke.

What you can do:

  • Damage from silent strokes can only be determined by a brain scan. You may have slight memory loss and forgetfulness from tiny strokes you never knew you had.
  • Talk to your doctor about certain types of therapy that may stimulate parts of the brain to help strengthen memory and other cognitive abilities.



8. Head injury – Have you had a recent head injury? While not as common as the other reasons listed, you can experience memory loss and confusion after receiving a minor brain injury or concussion.

What you can do:

  • If you’ve received a brain injury, your doctor will know what parts of your brain were affected. If the areas included memory centers, there may be therapies to help.



9. Treatment for tumors – Are you undergoing treatment for a brain tumor? Not only can a tumor itself affect memory, but chemotherapy, radiation treatments and surgery, while uncommon, can also impact memory centers in the brain.

What you can do:

  • As with brain injuries, memory centers of the brain that are affected by tumors or their treatments may respond to therapies designed to strengthen the area.



10. Viral or bacterial infection – A study reported by the Mayo Clinic showed that certain brain infections could also cause memory loss, although they are not at all common.

What you should know:

  • Once the infection has been treated, any memory problems caused by it are likely to disappear as well.


Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic condition that is progressive and doesn’t yet have a cure.

However, if you are experiencing occasional forgetfulness, you can look to one of these other causes of temporary memory loss to see if it applies to you.

Chances are, you are experiencing the normal brain changes associated with aging. Or you may have symptoms of a medical condition or are going through a stressful life situation. Once these factors are addressed, your memory problems may improve with time and possible medical intervention.

If you feel your symptoms are worse than these listed here, or if you are concerned about a loved one who is exhibiting more severe symptoms, call Shelby Medical Associates today to talk to your doctor about other potential causes of memory loss.

Take care of you. Take care of yours. We’ll be here to help you with both.