Knowing The Health Problems That Cause Memory Loss As We Age

2011-11-11 | |
Last updated: 2011-11-11

One of the more prevalent fears amongst people concerned with healthy aging is a loss of memory. In fact, a poll from a few months ago by the Associated Press found that as people age, fear of memory loss is second only to the fear of developing cancer. Like all fears, the concerns may not be entirely rational or well founded. However, the reason so many of us have these fears is quite obvious – we have experienced or heard about a family member, friend or acquaintance fading to a shadow of their former selves because of memory loss.

While Alzheimer’s disease is likely the most widely recognized form of memory failure, people can suffer poor quality memory for a variety of reasons. That said, aging itself is not a direct cause of memory loss. Among the actual causes of poor memory quality, a frequent theme that arises is the existence of other medical problems. Because of this, it is important for those concerned about or living with memory issues to be aware of the possible causes in order to get appropriate treatment when possible.

What Health Issues Can Lead To Memory Loss As We Age?

Although aging itself is not a direct cause of poor quality memory, a number of conditions that frequently arise as we age can be.

High Blood Pressure and Poor Memory

One condition that we associate with aging is high blood pressure and, not surprisingly, having high blood pressure or hypertension can affect our memory. In a 2009 study from the University of Alabama, researchers following 20,000 people found that every 10 point increase in diastolic blood pressure increased the risks of having memory problems by 7%. The diastolic value is the bottom of the two numbers normally quoted for blood pressure. So for 120/80, the diastolic pressure would be 80.

The researchers suggest that the reason blood pressure affects memory is because high blood pressure causes damage to small blood vessels in the brain. This then results in small areas of brain damage. These findings are important because they show that there are symptoms for some patients to detect high blood pressure. In many cases, because people with hypertension have no symptoms, they live with untreated high blood pressure. At the same time, this information is also useful because it means that lowering blood pressure can prevent worsening of memory.

Memory Loss and Cholesterol Levels

While high cholesterol is also associated with aging, it is important to remember that good cholesterol levels involve two parts. The first is a having a low LDL or “bad cholesterol” level and a high HDL or “good cholesterol” level. In research from the University Pierre and Marie Curie, researchers found that low HDL levels contributed to poor memory. There research found that having low HDL levels at age 55 increased the risk of memory loss by 27% and that having low HDL levels at age 60 increased the risk by 53%.

Although the researchers were not sure why low HDL cholesterol levels have this effect, the good news is that HDL cholesterol levels can be increased. The American Heart Association indicates that reducing fat intake, switching to unsaturated fats including peanut, olive and canola oil as well as exercising can all help to increase HDL levels. The results are important because they suggest another reason for patients to manage their cholesterol levels.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks, Medical Research

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  1. Gracelin says:

    Why does this have to be the ONLY reliable source? Oh well, gj!