Why can I no longer remember

How much forgetfulness is normal?

Who does not know that? You meet a friend whose name you can't think of. Such a situation unsettles older people in particular, but also young people: "Am I going to get dementia?"

If we have trouble remembering certain things, it is normal to some extent. Such dropouts are not in themselves a cause for concern, at least as long as they only occur occasionally. The memory is not a cemented structure. The links between individual memory contents are constantly changing, new knowledge is incorporated, old information is revised or pushed into the background. Just when we recall a memory, we create new connections in the brain. "We basically never remember exactly the same thing twice," says Professor Hans Förstl, Director of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Munich.

What affects memory

1. Environment and emotions

If we cannot access certain memory contents, this can have various causes. Our emotions and our current environment influence our memory. We tend to remember the name of the business partner more in everyday work than when we happen to meet them in the swimming pool. Those who are smart can take advantage of this when learning: students, for example, may be able to remember knowledge better if they prepare for an exam in the lecture hall in which the exam actually takes place.

2. Stress, exhaustion, lack of fluids

Speaking of exams: Stress can also lead to decreased memory. The same goes for fatigue and mental and physical exhaustion. As a rule, they only impair cognitive abilities for a limited period of time. Once the tiredness has passed, the memory works more efficiently again.

Lack of fluids is another possible cause of memory problems. In the long term, this even promotes states of confusion. Older people often drink too little and are therefore particularly affected. There is a simple recipe for this: drink a good one and a half to two liters a day, unless there are medical reasons against it.

3. Illnesses and Medicines

Illnesses weaken the body and often the memory too - among other things, depression, poorly controlled diabetes, fever, infections, dementias such as Alzheimer's and circulatory disorders in the brain can impair memory. It looks similar with certain drugs. Anyone who has the feeling that a drug is restricting mental performance should contact their doctor or pharmacist. Never stop taking the medication on your own initiative, as this sometimes harbors unexpected risks! In addition, alcohol and drugs can not only cloud memory for a short time, but can also damage the brain permanently.

Memory gaps: when to go to the doctor?

Memory disorders sometimes indicate dementia as a symptom, but can also be caused by one of the above-mentioned sources of interference. But when should we start worrying about a possible illness? Certainly not yet with occasional dropouts. "You should be puzzled when memory disorders increase or you can no longer remember things that previously did not cause you any problems," says Förstl. For example, when familiar work processes suddenly cause problems. Then an examination by your family doctor is definitely useful. He uses tests to check whether there are any signs of dementia and, if necessary, refers the patient to a specialist.

However, dementia usually develops insidiously and is often not noticed in the early stages. That makes the disease treacherous. There is no general recommendation as to when you don't have to worry and when you should be examined better. When in doubt, caution is usually the better alternative. The sooner dementia is recognized, the better it can be treated. "It is worthwhile for patients to face memory problems openly," says dementia expert Förstl.

Prevention: What Strengthens Memory

A lifestyle with a healthy diet and physical activity is particularly suitable for preventing memory disorders. Only drink alcohol in moderation. Targeted relaxation exercises such as yoga help reduce stress. Spiritual stimulation is also very important, for example in the form of a demanding hobby or as much contact with other people as possible.