7 things which can affect your memory

Some memory loss is inevitable as we age. But we should all be aware of the things that can affect our memory and how to protect ourselves especially in a country as ours ‘Nigeria’ where the hustle is totally on a different level. Have you wondered why they say if you can survive in Lagos, you can survive anywhere else in the world; truly, that statement can’t come truer.

Anyway, here are some tips for you:

1)  You’re stressed out

The traffic, rising cost of living, low standard of living, the list goes on. Studies have shown that people under pressure continuously have high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood,  and perform less well in memory tests. But it’s now also thought that even severe short term stress can cause memory loss.

What to do about it

You won’t know when your cortisol levels are up, but most of us know when we are stressed and under pressure whether it’s caused by work, family, relationships or money. Make time for yourself to do what helps you to relax – exercise, a relaxing bath, yoga, doing some gardening, and without sounding superficial, just let all your worries to GOD. He cares just for you, more than you can ever imagine.

2)  Problems sleeping

Adults generally need at least six hours of sleep a night to function the next day. Lack of sleep and poor quality sleep are both associated with memory loss. Sleep is needed for effective memory storage and retrieval.

People with sleep apnoea ( this is kind of more complicated than insomnia), a disorder which causes one to stop breathing in their sleep ten times an hour often suffer from memory loss and irritability the following day.

What to do about it

Sleep problems are usually caused by lifestyle, rather than a sleep disorder. Establishing a sleep routine, avoiding food and drink (especially alcohol) which help keep you awake or interrupt your sleep pattern.

Sleep apnoea mostly occurs in men, people who are overweight and who snore heavily. And please get done with the sleeping pills already. You have to look for more natural ways to fall asleep. Soothing music if you will, lights switched off, let the worries go, read a book even; it works for some persons.

3)  Lacking vitamins

Vitamin B12 is essential for the production of red blood cells and for a healthy nervous system. People who lack vitamin B12 become anemic and can suffer memory difficulties.

Most people with vitamin B12 deficiency are unable to absorb the vitamin from foods. Although it’s more common in people over the age of 50, it can occur at any age.

What to do about it

Anemia symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath and dizziness. Nervous system symptoms include tingling in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, memory loss and confusion.

The good news is that it can be treated by your doctor, who will prescribe vitamin B12 injections. However, good sources of vitamin B12 are red and white meat, eggs, fish, milk and cheese. Vegans can take supplements.

4)  Thyroid disorder

Memory difficulties combined with general fatigue and sluggishness are often accepted as a normal part of ageing. But they can also be a sign of an underactive thyroid caused by low levels of hormones from the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism can occur at any age, but is usually more common in older adults and in women.

What to do about it

Look out for other symptoms such as cold hands and feet, constipation, pale, dry skin and unexplained weight gain. If these sound familiar, see your Doctor. They can perform a blood test, and prescribe hormone tablets if necessary.

5)  Common drugs

Certain prescription drugs and even those bought at your local pharmacy can affect your memory. This usually happens if you take too much of them or because they may be interacting with other drugs. As you age and your metabolism slows down, medicines tend to stay in the system for longer and this can also have an effect.

Anticholinergics are a class of drugs which block the activity of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger which carries signals between nerve cells. These types of drugs are often used to treat bladder problems, sleeplessness, nausea and allergies and are found in many over the counter medicines.

What to do about it

Draw up a list of any drugs you are taking, including any purchased from your pharmacy and take it to your Doctor. They can decide if any drug related memory problems are occurring and alter your medication if necessary. And please do not patronize those drug vendors on the streets or in the molue (buses).

6)  Booze

It’s already known that alcoholics and long term heavy drinkers can suffer from memory loss and even permanent brain damage. But recent research also suggests that binge drinking can cause short term memory loss.

What to do about it

It’s not rocket science, is it? From a health point of view, binge drinking is definitely not recommended. Apart from memory loss, there is also the risk of alcohol poisoning and choking on your own vomit whilst asleep. Stick to the recommended limits which are:

  • Men should drink no more than 3 to 4 units of alcohol per day.
  • Women should drink no more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol per day. And for pregnant women, alcohol is a big no for you.

7)  Mini-stroke

Transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted, in most cases by a blood clot. Unlike strokes, mini-strokes can last from a few minutes up to 24 hours. Most are over within half an hour. Because of this, many people ignore the symptoms, especially if they disappear within the day. Others may not be aware they have had one, yet they can cause memory loss.

What to do about it

Symptoms of a stroke should be treated as a medical emergency, even if they disappear. Around one in five people who have mini-strokes go on to have a full blown stroke which can kill, or cause permanent disability. Treat this with urgency.