Misplace a pen or forget a doctor’s appointment? Fear not, most forgetfulness is nothing serious says Dr. Majid Fotuhi, founder and chief medical officer of NeurExpand Brain Center in Luterville, MD. Anything from lack of sleep to stress can affect memory. “Fortunately, your brain is malleable, meaning it changes and improves,” Fotuhi said. “Memory can be boosted with simple powerful interventions.”
Here are surprising things that may be impacting your memory:
A dysfunctional thyroid: “Although the thyroid doesn’t have a specific role in the brain, memory loss is the one thing a person notices when it stops functioning normally,” Fotuhi said. Ask your doctor about a thyroid test to determine if this is what is causing memory problems.
Hot flashes: “The more hot flashes a woman experiences during menopause, the worse her ability to remember names and stories,” Fotuhi said. In addition, other menopause symptoms cause memory problems such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
Lack of sleep: “While some part of the brain takes a siesta when we sleep, deeper areas involved with memory and emotional response become relatively more active,” said Dr. Allen Towfigh, medical director of New York Neurology & Sleep Medicine. It is recommended to get 8 hours of sleep, however, if you wake up still tired, you may need more.
Anxiety and depression: “As the individual’s mood improves, often so does the memory loss,” Towfigh said. Periods of stress lead to increased levels of cortisol in the brain, which in turn causes our brain cells to lose synapses and makes it more difficult to retrieve memories.
Smoking: “Smoking damages the brain by impairing its blood supply,” Towfigh said. “Furthermore, cigarette smoking promotes the accumulation of abnormal proteins which impair the brain’s ability to process and relay information.”