8 Causes of Memory Loss That AREN'T Alzheimer's

Worried About Dementia? There May Be Other Explanations
Take that look of worry/I'm an ordinary man

It's hard not to think of Alzheimer's disease when memory loss or a memory lapse darkens your day. After all, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are constantly in the headlines -- and of the more than five million affected Americans, 200,000 are under age 65. But many other situations can also produce this worrisome symptom.

Memory loss is just one Alzheimer's warning sign. Others, for example, include personality changes and problems managing money.

Your safest bet: "If you're concerned about memory issues, see a specialist," says psychiatrist Gary Small, director of the UCLA Center on Aging and author of several books about memory and cognition, including The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head. An evaluation will examine the type of memory loss, its timing, environmental factors (such as injuries or drug use), and other symptoms. (See also Worried About Your Memory? 5 Signs It's Serious.)

The eight following conditions are among the non-Alzheimer's causes of memory loss to consider:

SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

Memory-loss cause #1: Chronic stress

Why it happens: When the body goes on hyperalert to face a crisis, a series of biochemical changes takes place that fuels the fight-or-flight response system. The chemical cortisol increases in the brain, for example, to mobilize energy and alertness. That's great when a saber-toothed tiger is chasing you. But when tension and anxiety become chronic, as with work or family problems, the system is overloaded with substances that are intended for emergency use only.

Result: The brain actually loses cells and has trouble forming new neurons. This creates problems with cognitive thinking, especially with regard to retaining new information.

What else to look for:

  • Is your sleep disrupted, or are you getting less of it? Sleep deprivation compounds the effects of stress on the brain, because memories are sorted and organized during normal sleep.

  • Are you multitasking your way through a stressful period? Straining the attention system drains memory, too.


about 1 month ago, said...

My mum is 67 years old.she has just beaten acute myloid leukemia and has been in remission for just over a year. she now has COPD and heart failure plus severe kidney disease, but over the past few months we've noticed a quite rapid decline in her short term memory. She forgets appointments, forgets forgets what the appointments are for, forgets to pay for her shopping, forgets arriving somewhere then 30 minutes later not knowing how she got there.we are waiting for the results to see if its dementia as we are convinced that it is as the symptoms seem to be identical to our dad's who also had this cruel disease and which took our dad from us just 2 years ago. We are praying that its not dementia as we unfortunately know exactly what to expect which is why we are dreading it ,is there any chance we could be wrong and that it could be something else. we cry everyday wanting the results, but then again not wanting them,the only reason we asked our mum to get tested was because if she does have it and it was further down the line and the doctors say we could of done something if she had been diagnosed earlier we wouldn't of been able to live with ourselves, can anyone give us hope PLEASE! !


12 months ago, said...

I've been looking around for information concerning the causes of memory loss since my husband has been having difficulty remembering things for the past year. I'm quite worried about him. I've also found this article about the causes of short-term memory loss/


about 1 year ago, said...

Hy well.I'm here to find answers don't know.m if it's any good, my grandmother who is now like 73 was pretty great condition 2 years ago, I've.been oway for years so can't really.tell when it all started, but I do remember she hated her husband cuz he treated her like crap, this man was evil to her she was really.mad at him and her 7 children didn't really care or do anything to stop what he would do or say yo her, then they took her to the doctors because they thought something was wrong witb her and that's when they started giving her drugs don't know what they were.called but then she started forgetting everything she.couldn't drive anymore needed.people.help for everything but yet she would come visit yo my house and talk about things and.repeat them.over and over, then she would go home. well it continued for 1year 1/2. and it.would get.worse untill she just couldn't somethings on her own but still.want to be with us and come visit just to sit on our couch, so they locked her up and have.nuns and caregivers taking care of her and her.kids visit like once a month. they say she has Alzheimer's now she.don't talk.but.wants to and studers and is really happy when we visit her. caregiver says she still.tries to read and do.her.morning walks like she always did. I believe their is some.other answers to all of this.


over 1 year ago, said...

All of it. My suspecions were confirmed...Any stress that can be avoided should be, even if it means quitting a stressful job if it means making less money ,do it. Nothing is worth your mental health...


over 1 year ago, said...

As I near 70 years, I occasionally experience brain cramps. I just figure that there is over sixty years worth of stuff stored between my ears and my filing system is unique to me. Some of those older file cabinets are real dusty and a little rusty. Digging out a piece of trivia takes time and sometimes the effort isn't worth it. What is kind of funny is when something that I was trying to remember yesterday jumps out of my mouth today. I guess I am fortunate, my kids keep me connected to technology. I'm not as good as some but better than most. I also teach post secondary school and those young people challenge me and keep me at the top of my game though I might be a little slow. I am just slower at everything anyway.


about 2 years ago, said...

One possible cause of short-term memory loss not mentioned is Parkinson's disease.


over 2 years ago, said...

thx "Caring",For Yet AnotheR Insightful/Educational Article. They're Really Reassuring Too. Even If The Info Is Not All Too "Settling" For one's Indiv Circumstance(S).


over 2 years ago, said...

My husband is 40 and his memory is deteriorating rapidly. He has called me in a panic because he cannot remember where he's going or how to get home. I'm very scared for him. He cannot recall what he did earlier in the day, let alone yesterday. His doctor does not seem to be interested in getting to the bottom of this. Any advice?


over 2 years ago, said...

Very little, if at all, discussions about physical abuse to the head and results in a concussion. This is a major concern and also may explain memory loss in older people. After all, football players begin to experience difficulties in the late 30s and 40s, so could physical abuse victims. These people don't show concussion symptoms until long after the concussion(s) are inflicted.


over 2 years ago, said...

Paula, Thank you for this article, right on target! Through my experiences backed by research as a dementia practitioner, dementia administrator and director of marketing for a retirement community, I also see lack of NUTRITION as a cause of cognitive decline. Brain glia cells supporting neuron activity need nutrition to keep our brain thoughts moving and flowing, especially as we grow into our elder years. Usually the first life activity of decline as we add years is shopping then cooking for ourselves. Consistently we snack on and have full meals of junk food which can be harmful to the functioning of our brain. We need to encourage our seniors to consistently eat healthy fresh food to obtain the most nutrients. Here’s to Healthy Aging! Janet Rich Pittman


over 2 years ago, said...

I just thought it was important to mention that Lyme disease can cause symptoms of Alz. too, especially if someone has had it a long time. I have to wonder how many people go untreated and end up in a nursing home with an Alz. diagnoses when it's really Lyme disease, which could've been treated. My daughter and I have it and know the neurological symptoms that can go with it. Looking back over my mom's last 8 years makes me wonder if she maybe had it too. She had several of the symptoms of it. I hope this will help someone.


over 2 years ago, said...

Forgot a very simple and relatively easy cause which can be treated with almost immediate results. B12 deficiency and related pernicious anemia. My mother was mis-diagnosed with alzheimers, and it took a lot of determination and bucking the system to get the true diagnosis. Now she has a new doctor and is living on her own managing a 10 room house, paying her bills, using her computer. And she went from the edge of death and utter confusion toward noticeable improvement after 4 daily shots of B12. A hematologist found this. She is now taking monthly injections, going to gym 3 times a week to overcome the neurological and physical damage caused by this oversight. Literally, it was like watching a miracle. As soon as treatment began we could see improvement - better by the hour, literally. (Her physician had strongly recommended a care center/nursing home which we refused. We knew the diagnosis was wrong.)


over 2 years ago, said...

I am the only person I know who openly talks about my dementia. I was diagnosed a little over one year ago. It never occured to me until today to use the word to find help. Thank you for this web sight!


over 2 years ago, said...

I for one understand the loss of memory. I've had a bad memory all my life, it's a little worse now...have been hit on my head hundreds of times, got sick 2 yrs. ago falling down 15 stairs, 17 stitches and pain later, I haven't been the same....Our bodies just start to disintegrate. After 70-80 years most people's bodies start to fall apart, break, or just get overworked and it dies.....that is aging..so many problems start in old age not just memory....your eyes get worse, you sometimes lose your smeller, your hearing gets worse, your feet get sore from carrying you around all those years, especially if your overweight, why is everyone so surprised that seniors start deteriorating? We are like old cars, some fall apart earlier than others, but they eventually die no matter how you ate through your life, how you exercised....you still age and die.....


over 2 years ago, said...

People in their 60,s and 70,s everything we grew up with that was right or wrong now means nothing, Since the lib,s took over almost everything is now O.K. and it,s always someone else who,s to blame . Some don,t forget current event,s we never wanted to ever remember them.


over 2 years ago, said...

I am having memory problems and now my memory is getting worse so Dr. is sending me for a Memory phys. assessment in October.


over 2 years ago, said...

Very informative and helpful. Need more info on hypothyroidism tho.


over 2 years ago, said...

Thank you; my world is somewhat apart from many of the situations brought up in the stages of this article; to keep matters in order though, I try to keep to a healthy, but simple, diet: avoiding perhaps pleasant excesses which tend to side-track the system a bit. Keep active: mentally as well as physically. The more you do the more you can find yourself capable of doing. If you want to slide away, you might find that having sat back for some time, the ability to resurface or come back might be just too much, so before you choose to let things slide: get a grip, try something new. With 82 years on the clock, this type of approach I try to keep part of the daily routine ("days off" don't occur in this approach) at a 365/365 standard. Different days, different things, but still in the active medium. keeping healthy can begin with a 3-part gargle and mouth-wash, a worthy breakfast, multivitamin added Omega3, 6 + 9 to help along, such a routine pushes most of the potentials mentioned in the article out of the way. The choice is personal, but surely worth the effort if individual really wants to. :