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tedibear's avatar

How can I determine the cause of my memory issue?

Asked by tedibear (18971points) November 7th, 2016 from iPhone

Over the last six months, my memory has gotten worse.

Some examples:

My boss sent me an email to ask what things I worked on last week. (She needs it for department notes.) I can remember two things. I know I did more than that, but I can’t come up with what.

During a conversation, there are times when I struggle to retrieve the word I want to say. I can come up with words that are almost what I mean, but until someone else says the word, I am stumped. I feel a physical struggle in my head as I fight to find a word.

There are many times while I am at work that I think of something that I need to do at home. By the time I get home, it’s gone from my memory, even if I write it down.

I have a few possible culprits:

1. Perimenopause. I used to have the vocabulary issue mentioned above during PMS time when I had a regular period.

2. Stress. I am sick to death of my job and I don’t see it getting better. Home life is okay. Not perfect, but nothing particularly stressful. My husband’s job may be in jeopardy, though every time he has thought that in the past, he has ended up getting a promotion. He’s with a different company now, so I am concerned.

Medically, I have an issue that may or may not be a big deal. The doctor and I are in “wait to see and check it again in January” mode.

I think that some of the stress issue is also worsening the depression side of being bi-polar. I have little interest in anything other than cooking, reading and a couple of iPad games.

3. Alcohol. I have moved to two glasses of wine most nights, more on a Saturday. This may not sound like much, but is an increase over the past year.

4. Something as yet undiagnosed.

When I saw my doctor in May (June?) she said that she thought the memory loss was most likely a combination of hormones and stress. I didn’t mention alcohol because at the time, I wasn’t paying attention to my consumption.

My plan at this point is to ditch the wine and try to decide what else to do in the evening other than read or play games. That won’t alleviate the stressful bits, but it might be a good distraction until I go back to the doctor.

I know to not take medical advice from the internet, so I won’t hold you liable for anything you say!

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12 Answers

stanleybmanly's avatar

No one here is going to improve on what you already know. See a doctor SOON. Do you know any neurologists?

JLeslie's avatar

I’m pretty sure there are some specific tests that can be done by a medical professional to evaluate the specific type of memory loss you might be experiencing.

You might want to google a little and read up on memory, Alzheimer’s, and other memory conditions and see if your symptoms fit. I wouldn’t completely trust doctors not to dismiss your complaints when they shouldn’t. I say this because you fit that age group and gender that is often dismissed.

I will say this, my memory is getting worse and worse. I attribute most of my current problems to being overwhelmed and emotional. Too much happening at once, and I just can’t pay attention to everything and file it all away well in my brain.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I agree with the answers above. But I’ll throw in my 2 cents anyway..
Are you getting any exercise during the work day or when you are home? I have this (totally unscientific) mental image of blood vessels in the brain and body getting gunked up and stagnating when they are not exercised or forced to flex a little. I figure aerobic exercise – even if it is only for a few minutes – is infinitely better than just sitting around and vegging.
When I go out to the pond, I run rather than walk. If I’m watching TV I get up during the commercials and do something functional: dishes in dishwasher, check water level, check mouse traps, brush my teeth, pee, etc.- anything that gets me up from the couch. I try not to sit there and have that pollution poured into my head. It’s a personal game for me. “They” get a point if I forget and get sucked into and ad. I get a point for walking away. It is a challenge sometimes.
And I think it helps all my bodily functions including my cognitive ability.
It certainly doesn’t hurt – and it costs nothing..

MooCows's avatar

Hormones and stress and the fact that you are aware of your
memory problems makes it worse because you don’t feel
like you are at your best. This is a problem but don’t let it
over-take your every day life. Get some exercise and chill.

anniereborn's avatar

Are you currently on any medications? I have those exact same problems as you. I have been told it’s due to meds I am on. By the way I am 48 and most likely also in perimenopause.

CWOTUS's avatar

Over the weekend I read a great 2005 essay by Oliver Sacks, Recalled to Life (a deliberate take-off on Dickens’ use of the term from A Tale of Two Cities) about a woman who had suffered a major stroke, a resulting coma, and her recovery and life afterward. (It’s a great essay, and now that I’ve been introduced to his work, I’ll have to look up more of Dr. Sacks’ writings. Highly recommended.)

But I was re-introduced to a word that I had ironically also forgotten: aphasia. (I’m not suggesting that you have suffered any kind of stroke, major or minor.) But aphasia is the instance / process of not being able to recall words that one knows. If it helps, then, at least you have a term for one of the things that ails you.

Coincidentally, I also read in a Reader’s Digest article from 2012 (you can see how far behind I am in some of my reading, I guess) which included the interesting fact that “doorways themselves” actually cause some of our memory issues. That is, the feeling that we have all experienced from time to time of walking into a room and then… simply forgetting completely why we had entered the room in the first place. Apparently, there has been recent brain research (well, recent as of 2012, anyway) which revealed that the act of passing through portals / doorways has the physical effect of wiping parts of our memories. (Now I’m wondering if I should walk through doorways with my eyes closed, but I fear that there may be even more severe ramifications to that, depending on my blind navigation.)

I like that @LuckyGuy has suggestions for workarounds and aids, since that’s the way my own thinking is oriented here. I have “some interest” in causes of things such as this, but what I really care about far more than knowing “why is this happening?” is “how can I make things better?”

Paradoxically, however, I have a completely opposite take on one of his suggestions. While I don’t watch a lot of television, one thing that I do – about every week or so, and sometimes oftener – is finish watching whatever I was involved with, turn off the television… and just sit still and empty my mind. The other night I did that for a full half-hour after I had watched some program of minor interest. (I think the dorg became concerned that I had stroked out.)

The thing was, though, that I didn’t sleep or go unconscious, and since I wasn’t near a window or other distraction (and not reading anything), there was nothing external to occupy my mind. I just… sat and thought for awhile, until I stopped thinking. I won’t say that I had any particular thoughts or revelations, but the period that I sat until my brain stopped “working” to distract itself did allow a number of memories and unbidden thoughts to arise. After a while of that – ten minutes or so? – I simply sat, outwardly conscious but otherwise “out of it” and came out the other end feeling very refreshed. (I don’t “meditate”, so I’m not sure how closely that self-evolved process is to what others know as meditation, but when I don’t mind spending the time away from other, more active pursuits, that’s an enjoyable one.)

I also carry with me – all of the time (except, again paradoxically, today – first time in months that I’ve forgotten to bring it from home) – a pen and note paper. Usually that’s to write down my shopping list for the next trip as I encounter lowered stocks of various things, or new items that I want to add. And if it’s not on the list, then I don’t buy it, which helps to force me to “maintain that list” on my wanderings. (Except that sometimes I cheat at the store, add the item to the list and then buy it. Man, you just can’t beat a cheating brain.) But I also write down other things of interest as they occur (and which I don’t care to type or speak into my phone or other electronic device), and sometimes just “the process of writing the thing down” helps me to – again, more paradox here – not even need the written reminder at all.

filmfann's avatar

During high stress times, my memory of events would disappear.

imrainmaker's avatar

I think it’s combination of many things as you have described. But stress can play major role in this looking at your current situation. Try to do Yoga everyday to bring calmness and reduce stress level / anxiety.

Stinley's avatar

Physical exercise has been shown in study after study to be helpful in preventing dementia. From Alzheimers UK:

Prospective studies follow the health and behaviour of a group of people over time. Several prospective studies have looked at middle-aged people and the effects of physical exercise on their thinking and memory in later life. Combining the results of 11 studies shows that regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia by about 30 per cent. For Alzheimer’s disease specifically, the risk was reduced by 45 percent.

Keeping your brain active as well, is important. From Alzheimer UK again:

Keep mentally active – If you can keep your mind stimulated you are likely to reduce your risk of dementia. Regular mental activity throughout a person’s lifetime seems to increase the brain’s ability. This helps build up a ‘cognitive reserve’ and allows the brain to cope better with disease. (This link between brain activity and dementia is sometimes described as ‘Use it or lose it’.) Keeping mentally active could help to delay the symptoms of dementia by several years. It could even mean that you never get it. You could try learning a new language, doing puzzles (eg word searches, crosswords, Sudoku), playing cards, reading challenging books or writing letters. Find something enjoyable which stimulates your mind, do it regularly and keep doing it.

jca's avatar

@tedibear: I recommend you see a neurologist.

How old are you?

tedibear's avatar

@all – Thank you so much for the quick and thoughtful responses!

@JLeslie – I wonder if I took my overwhelmed feelings and stuffed them into a pile of denial and now the pile is tumbling down…

@LuckyGuy – I can’t say that I got up during the commercials yesterday, but I did make it a point to not sit down immediately after the dinner dishes were done. I got a couple of other household things done and felt better for it. Did the same this evening. We’ll see if it helps.

@Stinley – That makes such good sense. My head was a lot clearer when I moved more.

@anniereborn – Yes, I take two medications. I got a refill on one yesterday and read the side effects. Memory loss wasn’t on there, but a couple of other things rang a bell for me. It may be time to talk to the doctor about cutting this one back.

@CWOTUS – I am a list person already. The problem is that I don’t always remember to use the list technique. Sometimes I will say to my husband, “Help me remember X.” Most of the time, saying that out loud helps if it’s a short term item to remember. As for sitting and doing nothing, I don’t think that something I know how to do!

@MooCows – So far the worry about memory loss hasn’t taken over. I will try to keep everything in perspective.

@jca – I am 52.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Are you stressed? Overworked? I know my memory is worse when I’m really overloaded (a pretty common occurrence these days). I think getting yourself checked out is a sensible thing to do. It may very well be related to tiredness, stress or just too much on your mind.

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