Why Memory Loss is More than Just a Sign of Ageing?

Have you found yourself being forgetful lately? Ageing and memory loss go hand in hand, and there are occasions when most of us will have forgotten our passwords or the name of a close acquaintance. But does it signify dementia? Find out ways to slow down memory loss and when to seek help in this article.

by All Things Health Malaysia

This article is a content collaboration between Homage Malaysia and All Things Health Malaysia.

Causes of Memory Loss 

Some degree of memory loss is a part of the ageing process. Many physical and psychological factors also contribute to memory loss, affecting not just the older generation, but also younger and middle-aged people. However, it shouldn’t stop you from living a full, productive life. You can usually cope by being more organised, making lists and labelling your belongings.

When deficits in reasoning, judgment, thinking and other language skills accompany memory loss, it is classified as dementia. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) attributes memory loss to a deficiency of qi, blood and jing in the Heart, Spleen or Kidney. TCM physician Peh Wei Jie explains, “Memory loss and dementia can also be caused by qi stagnation, blood stasis and an upward disturbance of phlegm-turbidity”.

Dementia usually worsens over time and makes it difficult for a person to work and engage with society. How do you know if someone has age-related memory loss or early signs of dementia? Dementia usually starts gradually and worsens over time. Early symptoms of dementia may include:

  • Forgetting common words while speaking
  • Asking the same questions repeatedly
  • Getting confused while performing familiar tasks
  • Forgetting your way home or getting lost in familiar localities
  • An abrupt change in mood for no apparent reason

Here are some of the common reasons why dementia may occur:

Brain disease 

Memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease is most well-known. But other conditions such as reduced blood supply to the brain, infections, and tumours can also result in dementia.

Medicines

Memory loss and confusion can occur as a side effect of certain medicines. If you are taking multiple drugs and think you are getting forgetful, do have a chat with your physician.

Emotional disorders 

Undue stress, depression and anxiety can interfere with daily life and cause you to be forgetful, confused, and distracted. They result in a loss in qi and blood in the Heart and Spleen.

Alcohol 

Excessive consumption of alcohol can disturb mental functions. Alcohol can also react with the medicines you might be taking to cause confusion, memory loss, headaches and even seizures.

Vitamin B-12 deficiency 

Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals is vital for brain function. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is a common cause of memory issues, particularly in older people. Nutritional imbalances may cause a loss in the Kidney jing, leading to reduced brain nourishment. So, make sure you don’t forget your multivitamins!

Hypothyroidism 

A decrease in the production of the thyroid hormones can cause memory loss, lethargy, weight gain and other problems.

If you feel your forgetfulness is disrupting your daily activities or you notice a worsening of your memory, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. They will be able to assess the extent and cause of memory loss.

How to Prevent Memory Loss  

Though some degree of memory loss is inevitable as we age, you can definitely keep your brain sharp with the following lifestyle changes.

Solving puzzles and learning new hobbies may prevent memory loss.

Stay physically active and exercise regularly 

Exercise increases the blood flow to the brain, helping to keep your memory sharp. Aim to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercises such as brisk walking or light jogging.

Exercise your brain 

Indulge in mentally stimulating activities such as crossword puzzles, sudoku and jigsaw puzzles to keep your brain active. Learning a new musical instrument or picking a new hobby are also great ways to keep memory loss at bay.

Organise yourself 

Clutter fosters forgetfulness and confusion. Keep a clean home and organise your belongings. Jotting down tasks, appointments, and to-do lists go a long way in gaining control over your life, even when your memory fails. Check off your to-do lists as you get the tasks done and have specified places for items like your wallet, keys and glasses.

Get a good night’s rest 

Your brain consolidates memories formed through the day during your sleep at night. Hence ensure you don’t skim on your sleeping hours and try to get at least seven hours. Avoid late-night parties and keep a regular night time routine. Most importantly, stay away from digital devices closer to your bedtime.

Eat healthily 

A healthy diet is important for the brain to get nourishment. Keep your plate loaded with fruits and vegetables to get your daily vitamins and minerals. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna and low-fat proteins can help prevent memory loss.

Meet your friends 

The best memories are made with old friends. Meet up with your buddies regularly and keep building new memories. Social interactions with loved ones are important, especially if you live alone.

Traditional Chinese Medicine 

TCM acknowledges the effect of ageing on memory loss and may have a remedy for you. Consult a licensed TCM practitioner to diagnose and categorise your body constitution and syndrome. Your physician may prescribe acupuncture or herbal medication to improve the body and manage organ imbalances which can help to improve the memory or prevent further deterioration.

Physician Peh says, “A patient having a qi and blood deficiency in the Heart and Spleen may be prescribed a herb formulary such as gui pi tang (Restore the Spleen Decoction, 归脾汤) or herbs such as dang shen (Radix codonopsis, 精选党参), huang qi (Astragalus propinquus , 黄芪) and bai zhu (Atractylodis rhizoma, 白术).

Applying pressure to the shen men acupoint can also be helpful in lowering the risk of myocardial infarction.

“Acupuncture can be administered on relevant acupoints such as qi hai (Ren 6, 气海), zu san li (ST-36, 足三里) and shen men (HT7, 神门). These will help boost the blood, which helps provide good foundations to prevent memory loss. A patient having an upward disturbance of phlegm-turbidity may be prescribed Ban Xia (半夏), Zhu Ru (竹茹)and Zhi Shi (知识) to dispel the phlegm ad reduce heat. Acupuncture may be administered on points such as feng long (ST40, 丰隆) and qu chi (LI 11, 曲池).”

Good memories are invaluable assets gained over a lifetime. Don’t let memory loss take them away. Incorporate these tips into your daily routine and never let the memories fade away!

This article is an adaptation of Why Memory Loss is More than Just a Sign of Ageing from All Things Health Malaysia.

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About the Writer
All Things Health Malaysia
All Things Health is Malaysia's first English-language website providing trusted, medically reviewed content on natural health and wellness based on Chinese medicine wisdom. The articles are written by health editors, physicians, and wellness experts and cover key health and wellness categories such as nutrition, mental health, balance, and parenthood.
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