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Dementia, Stress or Something Else?

Updated: Feb 19

Forgetfulness is one of the most common signs associated with Dementia and Alzheimer's. So noticing that you are forgetful can be quite concerning. But forgetfulness can come from a variety of reasons, regardless of age. First, as we age, it is expected that we become a little forgetful. That's a normal sign of aging. And it takes longer to learn new things...this is also normal. It can be upsetting and frustrating. Putting your keys in the refrigerator, leaving your coffee cup on top of the car as you take off, or remembering at lunchtime that your lunch is still at home on your dining room table are actually more signs of being distracted rather than symptoms of dementia. Having difficulty concentrating is also frustrating, but may not lead to a diagnosis of dementia.


What else could it be?


There are many other reasons for feeling as if you have signs of dementia and ruling them out before any diagnosis or label is given is imperative. Let's talk about one you have heard much about...stress, yes, stress. Blamed for many things, stress is also to blame for many episodes of distraction and lack of concentration. The more stress, the more cortisol is released, therefore memory will be affected.




“Higher levels of cortisol — a hormone released by the body in response to stress — were linked to impaired memory and even slight brain shrinkage in healthy adults in their late 40s published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (Pawlowski, 2018).”


Sleep deprivation is one of the main reasons people feel distracted and lack concentration. Depression or other emotional issues can also cause similar symptoms. Drug side effects or drug interactions are a possible reason. Metabolic issues such as thyroid disorders need to be ruled out. Systematic infection can cross the blood brain barrier and cause symptoms that might mimic dementia. In addition, lack of oxygen to the brain through carotid atherosclerosis can occur. These will all be discussed in future blogs in more detail.


Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is the term used for those suffering from some symptoms of memory loss and is abnormal for your age. It is also noticeable to others. It can be caused by many factors. MCI is not a form of dementia, but about 15% of those with MCI may progress to dementia. An MCI diagnosis does not guarantee that one will get a diagnosis of Dementia or Alzheimer's.


But most importantly, before a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer's is given, other things must be ruled out.



Pawlowski, A. Feeling stressed? It could affect your memory study finds. Oct. 24, 2018, 1:21 PM PDT / Source: TODAY


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