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What causes memory loss?

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Memory loss can have several underlying causes, and these include aging, medication, alcohol, tobacco and drug use, sleep deprivation, stress, depression, stroke, poor diet and head injury. Certain medical conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and frontotemporal amnesia also cause memory loss, as stated by Mayo Clinic.

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In 2013, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center identified a major cause of age-related memory loss. The researchers discovered that the deficiency of a protein called RbAp48 in the hippocampus region of the brain is a major contributor to memory loss, and added that the condition may be reversible. This discovery also gave evidence that age-related memory loss and memory loss due to Alzheimer's disease are not related, as was previously thought.

Apart from aging, certain medications, such as antidepressants, muscle relaxants, pain medications and antihistamines, cause memory impairment. Other substances, such as alcohol and narcotics, have long been known to cause memory loss. Smoking, on the other hand, affects memory by limiting the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain.

The lifestyle of an individual also affects the memory. For instance, lack of sleep causes fatigue which, in turn, impairs the cognitive function of the brain that includes memory retrieval. Eating habits also play a major role in improving memory functions as the lack of certain nutrients in the diet, such as protein, fats and B vitamins, can affect the memory.

Brain injuries, such as trauma to the head or a stroke, can disrupt the normal memory functions of the brain. Both of these types of injury often cause temporary memory loss, but may improve over time and with therapy, as stated by WebMD.

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