Ho-Ho-No…. Can’t remember what’s on your holiday shopping list? You’re not alone: Even Santa has to check his list twice!
But, if you are having trouble remembering ingredients from the cookie recipe you just read, you may be dealing with short-term memory loss.
You can think of short-term memory, also called working memory, as your brain’s version of a sticky note. It helps you remember where you put your keys, what you ate for breakfast, the name of the person you just met, and the date and time of the appointment you just scheduled. This kind of information disappears quickly unless you take steps to push it into your long-term memory. This is why good teachers engage as much of the brain as possible in the learning process. We remember things better when we repeat them, sing them, write them down, draw pictures about them, act them out, etc.
One of our patients once confided, “My memory is very good, it’s just short.” This is because he was having increasing difficulty moving information from his short-term to his long-term memory. Common symptoms of mild short-term memory loss include:
Noticing these symptoms with increasing frequency, some people begin to panic, fearing they have Alzheimer’s dementia. Others chalk the symptoms up to “age.” Very often, neither one is the culprit. Stunningly, experts have found that up to half of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s don’t really have it! Moreover, experts say that brain function and memory should be as good in your 90s as they were in your 20s.
If you aren’t feeling as sharp as you were a few decades ago, a painless, comprehensive test in our Moab office can tell us which parts of your brain are not functioning as well as they should. This “brain map” can help us understand what is really going wrong and how to fix it.
Contrary to what scientists used to believe, the brain isn’t a stagnant organ that stops developing once a person reaches adulthood. New connections are being made every day as we learn new information, develop new skills, and have new experiences. And we now have a host of natural tools that can actually improve brain function, even in patients with early dementia. Unfortunately, there is currently no drug that has been proven to alter the course of dementia. This is why Consumer Reports could not recommend a single Alzheimer’s drug as a “Best Buy.”
Fortunately, non-drug approaches are demonstrating increasing success with memory loss, but without the risks and side effects that dominate the second half of each drug commercial. In other words, even if your brain map demonstrates a neurodegenerative pattern like Alzheimer’s, there is still a lot you can do to preserve and even improve what you have left.
By contrast, if your brain isn’t working so well due to something other than Alzheimer’s, brain mapping can help us figure out what that is and fix it. Some common reversible causes of memory problems include:
Have you ever heard that? It’s as if age explains everything that ever goes wrong with people. Don’t believe it. No matter how young or old, if you (or a loved one) are concerned that you might not be firing on all cylinders, don’t think for a moment that it’s because you’re just getting older. Don’t let your doctor give you that line, either. Call us for a comprehensive evaluation and recommendations for improved brain function. Your life—and quality of life—actually depend on it.
To your brain health,
Ray Andrew, MD