Do you often forget where you put your keys or your reading glasses? A new research suggests that these mild memory lapses, albeit worrisome, are considered normal.

However, other memory problems such as placing your car keys inside the refrigerator may indicate a much more serious issue that should prompt screening for Alzheimer's disease, experts said.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has described the types of memory problems (PDF) that indicate the need for a medical assessment:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily activities such as maintaining personal hygiene or balancing a checkbook.
2. Forgetting appointments or forgetting where you parked your car.
3. Failing to recall the names of close friends or family members.
4. Forgetting entire conversations.
5. Repeating what you said or asking the same questions over and over in the same conversation.

Another warning sign is memory loss that seems to get worse over time, the FDA said.

Onset Of Dementia?

As people age through the years, it is normal for them to find it hard to recall some types of information. For instance, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) may cause a slight but noticeable decline in cognitive abilities.

This condition is characterized by a memory deficit beyond what is expected for the age, but it is not enough to impair everyday activities. However, experts said a person with MCI is at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, which could lead to dementia.

Dementia is the most severe form of memory loss and can boost the number of memory problems. These difficulties are grave enough to cause disruption in a person's daily activities.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. This debilitating disease causes a progressive loss of brain cells accompanied by abnormalities in the brain.

Possible Causes

Researchers said some types of memory problems are caused by several factors such as the following:

1. Heavy drinking
2. Head injury
3. Stress
4. Depression
5. Medications
6. Infections such as HIV, herpes, tuberculosis and syphilis
7. Thyroid problems
8. Low levels of vitamins B12 and B1
9. Sleep deprivation

Fortunately, many of these factors can be addressed through medical treatment.

What Can You Do?

Officials said there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of developing memory problems, including the following:

1. Keep your cholesterol and blood pressure levels low.
2. Avoid smoking and avoid drinking too much alcohol.
3. Follow a healthy diet.
4. Engage in social activity.
5. Keep your brain active by writing, reading, learning a new skill, gardening or playing games.

Furthermore, previous research has suggested that a new broad-based and personalized treatment may help reverse the effects of memory loss among patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Photo: Anne Thorniley | Flickr

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