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ETpro's avatar

How do you know you're experiencing unusual short-term memory loss?

Asked by ETpro (34550points) March 17th, 2011

You might quip, “That’s funny, I don’t remember having a poor memory.” It is a hard thing to nail down, remembering what you’ve forgotten. Who hasn’t ever walked to the other end of the house only to realize that they’ve forgotten why they went there?

Age-associated memory impairment generally affects us all to some extent when we are over 50. This is normal, so I suppose I should be celebrating, given that I’m 67 and can still remember my 3 phone numbers, SSN, passwords to dozens of different websites, and so on. But the other day, I was talking to someone and couldn’t remember the name of the street we previously lived on. That’s a new one to me. Also my wife is noticing me forgetting things she told me the day before.

I’ve made an appointment to see the doc. If it is the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, I want to know and take what steps I can to slow the progress of the disease as much as possible. Maybe genetic research will pay off in a way to halt or even reverse plaque buildup in the brain.

Does anyone know of things that have proved in large, controlled, double-blind studies to delay age-associated memory impairment or even improve short-term memory. I’m not interested in homeopathic mumbo-jumbo rip-offs, but if there is something that is medically proven I’m up for it.

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31 Answers

erichw1504's avatar

When you forget that you know.

Summum's avatar

Could you repeat that?

janbb's avatar

I am troubled by this issue off and on, especially since there is a history of dementia in old age in my family. The medication Aricept can be helpful I’ve heard in slowing the progress of early Alzheimer’s; there may be others. When I was last concerned about it, I spoke to my doctor who gave me a mini-mental exam which I passed with flying colors. Since then I have been less concerned but I do still worry.

erichw1504's avatar

When you forget that you know.

thorninmud's avatar

I read about this study recently that indicates that difficulty identifying common odors seems to be a pretty good indicator of the onset of Alzheimer’s.

SpatzieLover's avatar

As far as I have read @ETpro keeping your mind challenged and active will help prevent memory loss and help retain & gain healthy neurons.

Here are tips I’ve read (in books, but I found some quick links for you):
*Eat more blueberries and almonds
*Take up a new hobby (like knitting, sewing, wood working)
* Exercise daily
* Walk a new route/drive a new route home——try NOT to do the same exact thing everyday
*Turn off the TV and do a puzzle/mind game.
*Try to take up a musical instrument. If you already play, try a new one.

There is a good site here with many tips

My husband’s family has Alzheimers in their genes. My family does not. Here’s what I’ve noticed through my experience with elderly relatives:

*Those that take care of a home (mow/climb stairs/do laundry) remain vibrant and with it for much longer than those that sit, brood and watch TV.
*Being open-minded and ready to try new things keeps you younger.
*Going to a nursing home is a bad idea.

Sunny2's avatar

Aricept works pretty well at slowing Alzheimer’s down, but its possible side effects can make it impossible for a patient to use. It’s worth a try if your doctor suggests it. You’ll know in a few weeks if it will work for you.

Fyrius's avatar

Oh, look, inconsiderate and predictable Alzheimer jokes.

It’s said (yes, hearsay) that fish oil helps, and there are memory training games available that might help too. Those are measures that help under normal conditions, though – I don’t know how Alzheimer’s works, physically speaking, so perhaps what goes wrong works in a different way to which those things are useless. I don’t know.
You’ve probably already looked it up on Wikipedia already. Beyond that, all I can recomment in good conscience is asking someone with a medical degree.

Narcissistic side note: I’m 23 and already most of the time I’m completely oblivious to all sorts of stuff I really have no excuse not to know. My old age is going to be a batch.

marinelife's avatar

Here is a chart that discusses what is normal memory loss vs. dementia.

erichw1504's avatar

When I wake up and can’t remember what I did last night, the girl laying next to me is always a memory booster.

talljasperman's avatar

when people tell you

ilana's avatar

I think when you start to feel like something is missing in your life, or you feel like you are not as mentally “fulfilled” as you used to be.

JilltheTooth's avatar

To answer the Q as written, you put it pretty well that you know you’re supposed to know something and don’t. I’d also be interested in knowing if circumstantial reasons for short term memory loss contribute to later dementia or Alzheimers. After chemo, it’s not unusual to have short term memory issues, sometimes it never comes all the way back. The standard joke from one cancer survivor to another is “How come you didn’t tell me my memory would be screwed up?” “Because I forgot!”. Funny only to us.
@SpatzieLover has a good list there, but it’s a bear when it happens, and not nearly so amusing as some have made it sound. Forgetting simple words (is there a decent synonym for “chair”) and directions and conversations and whether or not you’ve paid the electric bill can be emotionally crippling (as well as inconvenient, to say the least). I’ve had some success with with doing puzzles, switching up some routines and hard-wiring others, but I used to have a nearly eidetic memory of course I remember that and the frustration that I experience now is sometimes overwhelming. That said, I’d rather be alive to bitch about it, the alternative would seriously suck, but I find sanctimoniously, I’m sure such humor only funny from someone else who is going through it.

Cruiser's avatar

@ETpro I am probably not telling you anything new but the adage use it or lose it seems to carry weight with a lot of research I have read. Doing mental gymnastics with complex thinking skills supposedly will help keep the synapses in prime form. I know there is strong evidence of body chemistry playing a role in brain function.

And I have heard doing inversions is very helpful for improving blood flow to the brain. Just laying down with your legs up the wall for 15–30 minutes is very invigorating for the grey matter and I do it regularly at work when stressed or stalemated on a problem here.

Let me know though what you find out…anything promising and I will be interested and may help me remember where I left my reading glasses.

Scooby's avatar

Now why did I scroll down here again ? :-/

Summum's avatar

With my Brother in Law who is suffering short term memory problems. We will take him to many places and he will not remember ever being there or even that he watched a movie with us. He takes lots of pictures so when I show him the pictures he took then he sees and remembers a little more of actually being there. But the only way he knows he has a problem is when things like this come up and he sees that he was there.

flutherother's avatar

I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Sometimes a name just escapes you at the time and then when you’re thinking about something else it comes back to mind. If your wife starts telling you ‘I told you to cut the grass yesterday, don’t you remember’ then it could become a problem.

BarnacleBill's avatar

How’s your blood pressure?

ETpro's avatar

@janbb Thanks for a GA. I suppose I’;; get that test when I check in with the doc. My appointment’s July 1. Let’s see if I can remember that. :-)

@thorninmud Well, Spoony the cat’s litter box this evening tells me I still recognize familiar smells just fine. I could use a little lest olfactory acuity when I have to deal with that chore. :-)

@SpatzieLover Thanks., Great tips and GA! Blueberries and almonds I can definitely take. I’m tossing in chocolate JIC. :-) Actually I do much of what’s on the list, but I can add a few pointers there.

@Sunny2 Thanks. I found a test online where you answer questions about various memory issues indicative of early stage Alzheimer’s. I came up 100% in the clear on that. But it’s good to know that there may be medication should I see symptoms.

@Fyrius Ha! Not to worry. When I forget how to joke about my memory is when I will really get worried—if I remember to worry. The lady who owns the condo building next door to mine is caring for her husband, who has pretty serious memory impairment from Alzheimer’s. She will come out on her porch and let him walk a block or two up and down our street so he can move a bit. But she calls him back at two blocks away because if he goes further he gets confused and can’t find his way back home. I was walking alongside him when he reached the end of her imaginary tether and she yelled at him. The old bugger cracked a joke about it to me. So humor is something to cherish as long as it isn’t mean spirited.

@marinelife Thanks for a great link. I come up smelling like a rose on that test. One take away of things to do. #7. Use alcohol in moderation. So I guess I better start drinking again. ;-)

@JilltheTooth Excellent answer and I definitely commiserate. I do find myself using the reverse dictionary, but that may just be because I found out there is such a thing thanks to the magic of the Internet. And I’ve forgotten to pay Comcast a time or two, but when the TV and Internet don’t work, that always reminds me real quick.

@Cruiser Thanks. I haven’t done crosswords, but might like to take them up. I think the mental gymnastics we use thinking about, asking, and answering quesations here is good therapy as well. I do have genes on my side. Grandma was 88 and sharp as a whip when she passed away. My mom survived an aneurysm and massive cerebral hemorrhage and still had hre faculties till a respiratory illness took her at 76. And dad made it to 96 without ever losing his grasp on the world around him. He did love crossword puzzles, BTW.

@nikipedia Thanks. There is a second vote for resuming having a nip on the old bottle for a nightcap. What is mg/d in the memantine suggestion?

@Summum Wow. I would be very seriously worried if I were experiencing anything close to that.

@flutherother I’ve always had that, particularly with pop culture icons. I really just don’t care much about who’s hot and who’s not on the celebrity trail. But it does make talking about movies and plays difficult, because I can often picture the cast, but not connect names to all of them or remember who directed and produced the show.

@BarnacleBill Last check it was 110 ove 65.

janbb's avatar

@ETpro Just one further thought; if you are concerned, why not move the doctor’s appointment forward and take the mini-mental now? I think it will reassure you as it did me.

Scooby's avatar

You forgot to mention me in your last response :-/

Anyhow this happens to me a-lot & I’m coming up to only forty four , maybe it’s lack of sleep or the hours I find myself working these days, I don’t really know, memory loss isn’t really that much of a problem, it’s when you start getting bouts of Tourettes Syndrome that accompany it you should worry, talking to yourself & chastising yourself loudly for not remembering why you went into the garden or the garage :-/
This has started to happen to me Lol….. No it’s not funny………………………… “what the F*** was I saying F****** B****** shit for brains” :-/
So yeah if you experience this you’re fine :-/

ETpro's avatar

@Scooby Awwwww scoob—how could I? I’m sorry. What was your response again?

I should probably keep better hours. I work till about 10 in the evening with a break for dinner and the news. Last night I was on here and till 3 AM. I get up around 9 AM and generally get a midday nap. That’s probably not the smartest scheduling.

Scooby's avatar

Lol :-)

it’s ok!! I forgot what we were on about too ;-)
speak up, I can’t hear you…..... oh it’s me, or was it you :-/
Get some sleep, you’ll feel better…....

ETpro's avatar

@Scooby You must be psychic. I’m heading for a nap now. :-)

Scooby's avatar


Good man, don’t forget to flush after you have finished & put the seat down.. ;-)

PullMyFinger's avatar

When you forget that you already said that….

PullMyFinger's avatar

When you forget that you said that already….

PullMyFinger's avatar

When you say something differently, when it’s really the same thing….

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