Ask An Expert·2 min read

Does Having a Bad Memory Mean You’ll Develop Alzheimer’s or Dementia?

Dear Expert,

Does having a bad memory mean you’re more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia? 

Dear Anonymous,

We can all be forgetful at times, but it doesn't mean there's anything concerning going on in terms of dementia. There are many reasons why people could have a bad memory. For example: being stressed, dehydrated, or issues with medications. Depression and other types of mental illness can also affect our memory. Sleep is important, too — it's the workhorse of getting information to stay in the ‘file cabinet.’ 

It can be hard to differentiate between the age-related memory issues we all experience versus something that's dementia-related. One thing that's important to think about is that dementia is progressive, so it'll get worse over time. 

Loss of memory is one of the hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, but it’s more common that it becomes a problem in your 60s or 70s, where it impacts daily life. In your 20s and 30s, genetics and a family history of dementia are what you may want to start thinking about. 

There is a genetic marker that researchers can test for, but it's important to remember that beyond biology, how we take care of ourselves throughout life matters. Sleep, diet, exercise, and life-enriching experiences like social activities are a part of maintaining a healthy brain.

Featured Expert

Nichol Castro, PhD

Nichol Castro, PhD - Assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, who specializes in memory, Alzheimer's, and dementia.

Ask an Expert is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a question, you are agreeing to let theSkimm use it—in part or in full—and we may edit its answer for length and/or clarity.

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