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FOX Medical Team

Expert: Stress can cause memory loss

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ATLANTA -

A lot of us forget names, appointments, birthdays, or our telephone number! It seems to worsen as we get older. But when it comes to memory loss, what's normal, and what's not?

If you're scatterbrained, there's good news. One researcher says you may not be losing it.

"I have a lot of people in their 50s coming to see me in my office back in Pittsburgh and they think they have Alzheimer's and they really don't.  They're just a person who is way too busy, trying to juggle too many things," said University of Pittsburgh neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Nussbaum.

That busy schedule leads to stress, and that can cause memory problems.

"And my question to everybody is, "What's the saber-toothed tiger in your life?  What's chasing you? What are you stressed about?" And when that stress is taken care of, it frees up that memory structure to do what it can do," said Nussbaum.
   
Nussbaum says help your brain out. Keep your keys and belonging in the same place, and repeat new names aloud.

"So, if it's you, Beth, I say, "Boy, Beth, it's really nice, the weather here in Atlanta is quite nice. You know Beth it's really a nice studio here, the building is very impressive!"  So, I'll keep saying the name to encode it a bit deeper," Nussbaum said.

As we get older, it's harder to retrieve information.
 
"Like the library is filled with books, as I like to tell people, you might have a hard time finding where the books are.  But, you might notice if you give yourself clues, or cues, or you write things down, you do really well," said Nussbaum. "It's the person who doesn't benefit from cues at all, or isn't benefiting from prompts, or reminders, that's a clinical differential.  That's a clinical problem at that point."

Nussbaum says if your gut is telling you something isn't right, talk to your doctor about getting screened for memory problems. FOX 5 spoke with Nussbaum while he was in town talking about keeping your brain healthy at Emeritus Senior Living in Decatur. He says there's a lot we can do now while we're young to protect our brains.

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