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Memory Problems Don't Always Mean Brain Problems

I subscribed to a new newsletter, Mind, Mood & Memory published by Massachusetts General Hospital. I was excited to find that the lead article this month was on memory problems caused by health issues. I never realized there were general health problems that caused cognitive symptoms. For example, a problem called insulin resistance, which often precedes the development of diabetes, is associated with atrophy of regions of the brain affected by early Alzheimer’s disease. Endocrine problems such as Cushing’s disease and Hypothyroidism can cause impairment of memory and mental processes. Sleep disorders including those from restless legs syndrome cause fatigue that impairs optimal mental functioning. Cardiovascular disease which includes vascular dementia, small vessel disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure all negatively affect the flow of blood to brain tissues. Kidney and liver problems, vitamin B-12 deficiency, brain tumors, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, encephalitis and meningitis are all linked to a risk of impaired cognition.

So if you or a loved one seems to be having memory issues, you need to see your primary care physician first. If he/she cannot find any discernible medical reason, ask for a referral to a neuropsychologist or behavioral neurologist for further evaluation.