Memory is key to both the flow and betterment of your life. Knowledge gained from recollection of the past helps you move toward the future you hope to create. While you are probably aware that memory loss can be caused by a concussion or surgery, a stroke or a brain tumor, you may not know some less obvious reasons why you may be finding it difficult to remember the turn off for the shortest drive home.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription sleeping pills are possibly the worst offenders when it comes to memory deficits. Ambien and Lunesta, among the most popular sleep meds, are known to cause some users to sleep walk, others to sleep eat, and others to sleep drive. “When we study the brain of someone in a drug-induced sleep, there is little resemblance to true sleep,” writes Dr. Kirk Parsley in Integrative Health Review. “In fact, we see a pattern similar to the type of unconsciousness that is associated with a coma or passing out from excessive alcohol consumption.” By causing unconsciousness, sleeping pills not only rob you of the benefits of sleep, they also impact your abilities to recall.

And then there are the benzodiazepines, which are often prescribed for anxiety disorders, agitation, and muscle spasms, and include Valium (diazepam), Xanax, (alprazolam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide), and Ativan (lorazepam). While they may help to calm and to ease the nerves, these drugs work by suppressing neurotransmitters and brain regions key to the transfer of your memories from the short-term to the long-term storage bin. Understanding the negative effects on memory, pharmacists recommend limited courses of benzodiazepines for brief durations.

Finally, cholesterol-lowering medications, commonly referred to as statins, may also contribute to your inability to remember the past. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration now requires memory loss be listed as a side effect on the labels for Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin) and other statin drugs. Quite simply, cholesterol is necessary for learning and thinking, and along with lowering the levels in your blood, these drugs are also working to reduce the levels in your brain, ultimately eroding the connections between nerve cells.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are severe and long-lasting and may include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and a throbbing pain felt on just one side of the head. A recent study, which investigated the impact of migraine on memory loss following an attack, showed how migraine patients suffered impairment in global-visual processing in the two days following an attack, but not in attention or working memory. Following a migraine, some patients will experience complete amnesia lasting hours; this specific neurological disorder is known as transient global amnesia. Another study conducted by Taiwanese researchers found migraines to be associated with a higher risk of dementia; specifically, the cumulative incidence of dementia was 1.48 percent greater among participants suffering migraine compared to those without these headaches.


Stress can cause weight gain and higher blood pressure, and for many people it is the road leading to diabetes and heart disease. Stress is everywhere and at times stress is no where. We sometimes feel it even without the pressure of a deadline, even when we ignore the frowns of our boss. Now, a new study conducted in mice finds high levels of cortisol, the infamous “stress hormone,” may be one cause for short-term memory loss. In the brains of the mice, cortisol ate away at synapses in the prefrontal cortex, an area implicated in short-term memory. And, the problem worsened with age; the longer the synapses endured exposures to cortisol, the greater the short-term memory loss suffered by the animals. However, the researchers also found a positive spin to this unhappy news. Some of the older mice with low cortisol levels displayed little memory loss, suggesting replenishment of cortisol might someday aid those with failing memories.

Blood Type

People whose blood type is AB are known to be at greater risk of blood vessel-related conditions due to the generally higher levels of clotting protein VIII. Now, a three-year study finds people with type AB blood are twice as likely to experience memory problems as people with type O blood. After examining a group of 495 participants who had developed thinking or memory problems, the researchers compared them to 587 age-matched people with no cognitive problems. Those with an AB blood type were 82 percent more likely to experience difficulties with everyday memory recall, language, and attention, and a higher percentage were found in the dementia group than in the general population. While more study is needed to confirm the results, these findings may not surprise those who understand how memory loss is linked to blood flow to the brain; any blood vessel-related conditions associated with the AB blood type would lead to less optimal flow to brain cells and ultimately result in cognitive impairment. Again: it’s much too early to say people in the AB blood group have a slightly higher risk of dementia.

Vitamin B12

We need vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, nerves, and even DNA, however, our bodies cannot produce this precious vitamin on their own. Instead, we must absorb it through food, including meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, and other foods from animals, or from supplements. If we fail to get enough vitamin B12, a severe deficiency may lead to memory loss and one day even dementia. Three in every 100 adults over the age of 50 have a seriously low B12 level, while up to one fifth may have a borderline deficiency, according to estimates based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Though not getting enough B12 may lead to memory deficits and mental decline, getting extra B12 unfortunately does not reverse a tendency toward dementia. Prevention, though, is a plenty good reason for asking your doctor to check your B12 levels.