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Short Term Memory Loss: Overview


Short-term memory allows a person to remember to recall things within a minute. The capacity of short term memory is very low, usually no more than 5 items.

Here are some ways to help your short term memory loss condition:

1. If you see that the condition is seriously affecting your life consult your doctor.

2. Repeat those things you really need to keep stored. This will sometimes make it easier to recall the important things.

3. Cut down on alcohol. Stop using drugs.

4. Sleep at least 8 hours a night.

More about short term memory loss in general

Albert Einstein once said he never memorized what he could look up. Some of us vividly remember names, dates, telephone numbers, and events, while others of us 

have trouble remembering what we ate for breakfast this morning. Memory is a multi-faceted faculty that we often take for granted, and as we age, we seldom notice as it begins to slip away. 

Memory is divided into two parts: explicit and implicit. Explicit (or declarative) memories are further divided into two: episodic and semantic. With episodic (or retrospective) memory, we remember our personal life experiences and can imagine our future. Semantic memory is non-autobiographical information, such as knowledge learned in school, how to recognize friends and acquaintances, and world events. Implicit memories consist of procedural (or muscle) memory. You know how they say “you never forget how to ride a bicycle”? That would be procedural memory – where our “how to” or skilled knowledge is stored. This is part of our long-term memory, which is very durable. 

Working (or short-term) memory is where we store temporary information, such as a zip code we want to write down. Prospective memory is basically when you remind yourself to do something, such as taking medicine daily. As we age, our brains produce less of the chemicals they need to work. This usually does not affect working or long-term memory, but can cause you to forget the name of someone you have recently met. While frustrating, this is normal.

Amnesia can be caused by a head injury, stroke, substance abuse, or a traumatic emotional event, such as war or a car accident. It can either be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. Usually, the “amnesia” used as a plot device in soap operas and movies does not happen in real life. In other words, it is rare that amnesiacs completely forget who they are.

Dementia is a slow decline in memory, judgment, problem-solving and learning abilities, which can happen over a period of weeks or months. Dementia or similar symptoms can be caused by many health conditions, and may be reversible in some cases. In people over age 65, Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. Some of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer's include asking the same questions repeatedly, using inappropriate words or difficulty finding words, being unable to perform familiar tasks, such as following a recipe, misplacing items in inappropriate places, such as putting a wallet in the refrigerator, getting lost while driving on familiar streets, and having sudden changes in mood or behavior for no apparent reason.

Many other medical problems cause symptoms similar to Alzheimer's, so you should always see a doctor before “self-diagnosing” Alzheimer’s. The problem may be potentially reversible, caused by depression, a metabolic disorder (like hypothyroidism), a medication reaction, lack of sleep, stress, or a vitamin B12 deficiency. Medications can interact with each other, weight loss or gain can affect the amount of medication in your system, and alcohol use can affect how medications work in the body. Another potential problem is dehydration. Older people have a higher risk of being dehydrated because the ability to feel thirst decreases with age, and a lack of water in the body can create a higher potency of a medication in the body. Depression can cause similar symptoms, and sometimes people lose consciousness from a fall and do not even know it, which means they may have had a concussion – another potential cause of memory loss. Electro-convulsive therapy, or shock treatment, can also cause memory loss, sometimes on a permanent basis.

Some points to remember (no pun intended) about memory loss are:
· Significant memory loss is not an inevitable result of aging. 
· The brain is capable of producing new brain cells at any age. 
· Brain training and new learning can occur at any age. 
· To a large extent, maintaining healthy memory is under your control. 

Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.

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Greg Cryns
The Compleat Mother Magazine
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