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Chronic alcoholism
can seriously impair mental abilities.
Alcohol can also cause memory loss by
interacting with medications.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Vitamin B-12
helps maintain healthy nerve cells
and red blood cells. A vitamin B-12
deficiency - common in older adults -
can cause memory problems.
An underactive
thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
slows the processing of nutrients to
create energy for cells (metabolism).
Hypothyroidism can result in
forgetfulness and other thinking
A tumor in the brain may
cause memory problems or other
dementia-like symptoms.
When to see your doctor
If you’re concerned about memory loss,
see your doctor. He or she can conduct
tests to judge the degree of memory
impairment and diagnose the cause.
Your doctor is likely to have a number
of questions for you, and you will
benefit by having a family member or
friend along to answer some questions
based on his or her observations.
Questions may include:
• How long have you been
experiencing memory problems?
• What medications - including
prescription drugs, over-the-counter
drugs and dietary supplements - do
you take regularly? What is the
dosage of each?
• Have you recently started taking a
new drug?
• What tasks do you find too difficult
to perform or finish?
• What have you done to cope with
memory problems? Have these
things helped you?
• Do you drink alcohol? How much
do you drink daily?
• Have you recently been in an
accident, fallen or injured your
• Have you recently been sick?
• Have you recently felt sad, depressed
or anxious?
• Have you recently experienced a
major loss, change or stressful event
in your life?
• What is your daily routine? How has
your routine changed recently?
In addition to a general physical
exam, your doctor will likely conduct
relatively brief question-and-answer
tests to judge your memory and other
thinking skills. He or she may also
order blood tests and brain-imaging
tests that can help identify reversible
causes of memory problems and
dementia-like symptoms.
You may also be referred to a specialist
in diagnosing dementia or memory
disorders, such as a neurologist,
psychiatrist, psychologist or
The importance of a
Coming to terms with memory loss
and the possible onset of dementia
can be difficult. A person may try to
hide memory problems, and family
members or friends may compensate
for a person’s loss of memory —
sometimes without being aware of
how much they’ve adapted to the
Getting a prompt diagnosis is
important, even if it’s a challenging
step. Identifying a reversible cause
of memory impairment enables you
to get appropriate treatment. Also,
an early diagnosis of mild cognitive
impairment, Alzheimer’s disease or
a related disorder is beneficial for a
number of reasons:
• Beginning treatments to manage
• Educating yourself, family and
friends about the disease
• Determining future care preferences
• Identifying care facilities or at-home
care options
• Settling financial or legal matters
Your doctor can help you identify
appropriate community resources and
organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s
Association, to help you cope with
memory loss and other dementia
July/Aug 2014