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9 Factors that Impair Memory

Update Date: Aug 29, 2014 01:14 PM EDT

Everyone experiences lapses in memory. Even though a lot of people attribute memory problems to aging, getting older is not always the cause. Here are nine factors that can impair memory.

1. A Dysfunctional Thyroid

Often times memory problems indicate an underlying health condition. One of these conditions could be a dysfunctional thyroid, which can cause people's memory to lag behind. Studies have found that people who had either too high to too low thyroid levels experienced memory and concentration complications. A dysfunctional thyroid can be diagnosed and treated.

2. Hot Flashes

Women, who are going through menopause, which occurs when the body stops menstruating, tend to suffer from hot flashes. Each time women experience a hot flash, their brains might feel foggy due to the intensity of the heat. Even though hot flashes do not hurt brain health, it can affect people's ability to remember certain things. Once the hot flashes diminish, women might start to feel as if their memory is returning back to normal.

3. Sleep Deprivation

Getting a good night's rest can make a huge difference the morning after. Many studies have found that sleep deprivation leads to fatigue and cognitive problems. One of the problems involves memory. In order to avoid these complications, people should strive to sleep the recommended eight hours per night.

4. Anxiety and Depression

Mental health disorders can greatly affect memory as well. For people with anxiety, constant worrying can negatively affect brain processes that are tied to developing and retrieving memories. When people's moods improve, memory problems often diminish.

"We don't understand the exact link, but strong evidence indicates depression, anxiety, and bipolar disease disrupts the neural circuitry involved in developing and retrieving memories," Allen Towfigh, MD, medical director of New York Neurology & Sleep Medicine, explained reported by TIME. "The severity of the memory loss often mirrors the severity of the mood disorder-severe depression brings about equally severe memory loss."

5. Prescription Drugs

All drugs come with side effects that range from mild to severe. For some patients, these side effects include memory impairment. The drugs that typically affect memory are the same ones prescribed for people with mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Even though memory problems might be annoying, experts do not recommend people to stop taking their drugs. Patients should always discuss their symptoms with their doctors first.

6. Smoking

Smoking, which is one of the leading causes of preventable death throughout the world, also negatively impacts people's memories. Studies have found that people who are smokers are more likely to experience cognitive decline in comparison to non-smokers. Experts explained that smoking can hinder blood supply to the brain.

7. High-Fat Diet

A high-fat diet not only affects people's physical health, it can also impact mental health. People who eat high fat foods constantly increase their risk of suffering from memory and learning problems. However, experts cautioned that more research should to be done to examine this link further.

8. Stress

When placed under a lot of stress, people can forget even the easiest details such as their phone number or home address. According to some studies, stress can lower the amount of receptors in the brain that are responsible for processing thoughts. One huge stress event will not affect memory in the long run. However, chronic stress can.

"Repeated or chronic stress can be harmful. Regular exposure to elevated glucocorticoids (a hormone released by the adrenal gland) also causes our brain cells to reduce receptors, making brain cells less capable of responding to neurochemical (brain chemicals) cues," Dr. Towfigh stated.

9. Germs

Germs can impair memory as well. In a 2013 study, researchers concluded that getting infected with viruses such as herpes simplex type 1, which is the cold sore virus, can impact people's memory.

People suffering from memory problems can benefit from frequent exercise, a good diet and plenty of sleep.

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