What are memory problems?
Your memory helps to define who you are and allows you to learn and remember. It holds information about your life, your experiences and makes it possible for you to make decisions and plan things. It is also important socially as it helps you to build relationships and recognise people.
People often say they have a “good” or “bad” memory but this is not really true. Memory consists of several different parts and while you might not be good at some of them you could be great at others.
Claire, for example, suffered a head injury a few months ago. She still remembers all the important events from her childhood but struggles to remember the things she has to do in the next few days.
You could say she has a memory problem but it is important to keep in mind that her memory still works very well for some things. It is very unlikely that you have problems with all parts of your memory even if you have an illness or had an injury.
Identify your memory problem
An important step in helping you to deal with your memory problem is for you to find out which parts of your memory work well and which ones do not. Once you know what you are good at and what you struggle with it will be easier to find solutions for your problems.
As a first step take some time to think about recent situations where your memory worked well. For example, you might still be good at something you learned in the past such as cooking or driving. You might have no problems holding a conversation and remember how to use words and sentences. It will be different things for everyone. It is important to remind yourself that your memory is still working well for this type of situation and not all of your memory is bad.
As a next step think about situations where you feel your memory is not so good. It could be you struggle to learn and remember new things. Or you might find it difficult to concentrate. Those are likely to be the parts of your memory that do not work well. Remember though that even healthy people with no memory problems do not have perfect memory.
At present, there is no drug that can be used to cure all types of memory problems. However, depending on what your memory problems are caused by there might be some medication to help you. For example, there are drugs that can slow the progress of Alzheimer's or Dementia. Some conditions might also improve over time without medication, e.g. if your memory problems are due to an accident.
It's important to keep in mind as well that some medications can cause memory problems as a side effect. Some types of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, blood pressure and arthritis medications as well as antihistamines or sleeping pills can have this effect. If you have any concerns about this it might be worth talking to your GP about it.
A number of studies have shown a link between improved memory function and a healthy and active lifestyle with low levels of stress. A diet high in fruit and vegetables, particularly fruits that are high in Vitamin C and anti-oxidants, can help protect against memory loss due to ageing. A high calorie intake seems to be bad for your memory as it increases the chances of developing memory problems.