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How Can I Improve My Memory?

Published: January 26, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,
How can I improve my memory? I'm 17 year old girl and my memory has been worsening through the years. Back in elementary school and when I was thirteen or so I swear I had good memorization skills, even my teachers told me so, but in the past years I've become more and more forgetful. I don't drink or smoke nor I do drugs, I don't exercise too much though I don't know if that has anything to do with my memory (I've never been too active in the first place). My long term memory isn't what it used to be, but my short term memory is mostly what's worrying me. Sometimes I can't remember what I've done in classes, even if I'm paying attention, it all seems a bit blurry and my head feels hazy when I try to remember it, and I sleep over 7-8h most days. Should I go to the doctor?
Signed: How Can I Improve My Memory?

Dear How Can I Improve My Memory?,

Memory lapses can happen to everyone at one time or another, which is a normal occurrence. However, if memory loss is beginning to affect your life and every day activity, it can warrant a visit to the doctor to be evaluated.  Many different things can cause problems with memory.  Trouble with memory could be attributed to lifestyle and behavioral factors or to possible underlying medical conditions. 

  • Stress/anxiety and depression could cause issues with memory.  When someone is feeling more anxious or depressed, their concentration suffers because the mind is preoccupied with other thoughts and therefore may present as memory loss.  If you feel as though you are feeling more down than usual, experiencing loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, agitation, loss of concentration, excessive sleepiness, and eating more or less than usual then you should go to the doctor to be evaluated for possible depression. Depression could be very debilitating and it would be beneficial to seek help early on. 

  • It has also been shown that nutritional deficiency and being less physically active could possibly contribute to memory problems.  So, eating a healthier, well-balanced diet and becoming more physically active can help clear your mind and potentially help with concentration and memory. 

  • Medical illnesses such as thyroid disease can cause memory problems. If you feel like you are experiencing fatigue, muscle weakness, feeling cold, dry skin, brittle hair, feeling down/depressed then you may have hypothyroidism and need medication to replace necessary hormones. 

  • Certain prescription medications can also cause problems with memory, so if you are taking any medications it would be helpful to discuss potential side effects with your doctor.

There are a variety of lifestyle, behavioral and medical illnesses that can affect memory, so visiting a doctor is recommended if you feel as though this problem is interfering with day-to-day activity so that you can receive a proper diagnosis and effective treatment. To evaluate memory loss, your doctor will take a medical history, perform a physical exam, including a neurologic exam and ask questions to test mental ability.  Blood work may also be necessary to rule out certain causes. 

If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

Signed: TeenHealthFX