Common Causes of Reversible Memory Issues

If you are like a considerable majority of adult children with aging parents, you think about memory problems and fairly quickly segue to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The speedy transition from memory blips to dementia is understandable on many levels. However, the reality is that some memory glitches is a natural part of growing older. Moreover, there are a number of different types of memory issues that are reversible. These memory concerns are not indicative of an older person on a pathway to dementia. 

In this article we discuss some of the common causes of reversible memory issues. These include:

  • Medications
  • Lack of exercise
  • Sleep issues
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Thyroid function issues
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Poor diet


The University of Southern California School of Pharmacy makes note that oftentimes older people take what fairly can be called a “cocktail” of different medications for different health issues or conditions. Sometimes one of these medications can adversely impact an individual’s memory as a side effect. In other instances, the medication cocktail can have that effect. Negative impact on memory resulting from medications can arise from prescription as well as over the counter drugs. 

As a consequence, it is imperative that a person discuss medication side effects comprehensively with a doctor or pharmacist. This close discussion needs to include the prospects for negative impact on memory as a side effect of a particular medication or of a combination of drugs being prescribed or purchased over the counter.

Lack of Exercise

Numerous studies show that exercise protects memory and thinking skills, including as a person ages. One such research study from the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise such as running or brisk walking boosts the size of the hippocampus. This in turn stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health and supply of brain cells. 

There’s a negative impact for those who are not physically active. Failing to walk or do other aerobic exercise on a regular basis can cause brain shrinkage. This can lead to an increase of white matter changes or small injuries to the parts of brain cells that connect with other brain cells. The net effect of this can be memory issues or memory problems. 

The positive impact of exercise on the brain appears to be immediate. A University of Maryland study of brain health in older individuals shows that just one session of exercise increases activation in the brain circuits associated with memory. In people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment as well as in cognitively healthy older adults, measures of brain function improve after just 12 weeks of exercise.

Sleep Issues

Improper sleep on a consistent basis can have an impact on memory. This includes getting too little and getting too much sleep. 

A University of California Berkeley study found that older people who sleep poorly experience memory loss and brain disorientation. In addition, researchers at Michigan State University’s Sleep and Learning Lab found that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of a person being unable to complete a series of steps without losing his or her place and triples the number of lapses in attention.

Anxiety and Depression

Research shows that depression and anxiety can also alter our brain physically. This particularly can be the case when it comes to those parts of our brain that deal with memory and recall. A research study from Brigham Young University revealed that subjects with anxiety and depression showed less brain cell growth in key areas compared with those not dealing with such mood disorders.


We continually hear that most folks fail to drink enough water during the course of a given day. What many people do not realize is that dehydration can have a negative impact on memory. A research study at Ohio University revealed a link between being hydrated and memory. According to this study, dehydration directly impacts memory. The more dehydrated a person is, the more significantly memory is impaired. 

Thyroid Function Issues

It’s important to understand that the thyroid regulates metabolism in all organs – including the brain. Low thyroid functioning has the potential to impact memory. Medication is available that can address thyroid function issues. In turn, controlling thyroid issues can result in memory improvement. 

Alcohol Consumption

Older individuals are more vulnerable to the short- and long-term effects of alcohol use on their brains, including in regard to memory, according to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital. As people age, their brains become more sensitive to alcohol. Their metabolism also slows down, resulting in alcohol staying in their system for longer. 

Many older men and women also experience a slow degeneration of the cells in the hippocampus. It’s not usually severe enough to cause symptoms of dementia. But when you add the effects of heavy alcohol use, memory loss can end up being serious.

Poor Diet

Harvard Medical School reports that diet can have a notable to significant impact on a person’s memory, including for older individuals. Indeed, a poor diet can not only result in reversible memory issues but can lay the foundation for a person eventually developing dementia. 

According to Harvard Medical School, saturated and trans fats are proverbial “food villains.” Unfortunately, the typical diet of a person in the United States tends to be high in saturated and trans fats, setting up a person for memory problems down the road. 

A brain healthy diet includes mono and polyunsaturated fats. Harvard Medical School researchers point particularly to the Mediterranean diet because it is high in unsaturated fats. This diet has been linked to lowering rates of mild cognitive decline or impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and other types of memory issues.

Foods that are brain healthy and appear to be helpful in staving off some memory issues include:

  • Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil help improve the health of blood vessels, reducing the risk for a memory-damaging stroke.
  • Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to lower levels of beta-amyloid proteins in the blood and better vascular health.

Armed with the information in this article, you can make decisions that will be beneficial when it comes to your memory. You may be able to reverse memory issues that you are experiencing at this time. You may be able to prevent memory issues in the future as well.