Memory problems: Where did I leave my keys and my car?

Memory problems: Where did I leave my keys and my car?

Forgetting your keys or someone's name is normal, the worrying thing is not remembering something you have done

Friday, 27 October 2023, 15:24


Memory fails and, from a certain age onwards, more frequently. But don't worry, it doesn't have to be an indication of dementia, far from it. If you are one of those who don't know where you left your keys, the street where you parked your car today or that special place where you kept that object you love so much, don't worry. Welcome to the age of absent-mindedness!

From the age of 50 onwards, you cannot claim to have the same heart or the same lungs as you had when you were 20. The years are unforgiving. "One thing can be just an oversight and another a forgetfulness that has an impact on your life," explains neurologist Alfredo Rodríguez Antigüedad, of the Spanish Society of Neurology. It is not a serious matter to forget where you have left your keys, it happens to all of us. What is worrying is being unable to remember whether you came by car or train, or whether or not you celebrated your wedding anniversary yesterday”, explains the specialist.

The forgetfulness of which one is aware can have many causes and none of them are reason for alarm, according to the expert, head of the Neurology Service at Cruces Hospital in Vizcaya. You may not remember exactly where you met a friend because you were absent-minded at the time, or because you are naturally absent-minded and you have simply forgotten.

"Where did I park?"

We often carry out certain activities without being fully aware that we are doing them. "Imagine a businessman who travels from Bilbao to Madrid during the day and does so very frequently. He leaves early in the morning, leaves the car at the airport and, on his return, does not know where he left it. I know many people - and, in fact, there are apps - who have to take photos to remember where they parked".

Is it a cause for concern? Absolutely not. The stress with which he arrived at the car park, maintained during an intense day of negotiations and meetings, prevents him from remembering where he left the vehicle. The mind relaxes, because it needs to, loses the degree of agility it has maintained for some time and does not remember. It has to be reactivated, trying to memorise the steps taken.

Exercise the memory

Healthy diet and exercise: Consume healthy foods. A diet focused mainly on the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and fish protects against chronic diseases and helps keep the brain agile.

Plan ahead and use tricks: Make a list of what you need to do and help your memory with notes and calendars. Many people remember things better if they connect them mentally to a song, a book, a name, or a TV programme.

Don’t sit around at home: Maintain your interests and hobbies and develop new ones, such as volunteering for a charity, and visit relatives and friends.

Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive amounts in short periods can cause irreversible damage to the brain.

Sustained stress can go so far that you try to be aware of what you are doing in order to remember it later, if necessary, and you don't succeed. "It has happened to everyone at some point," reassures the SEN specialist. You think 'I'm going to leave this in this drawer, where I never keep it, and then I'll remember it', but when you need it, there's no way! And it doesn't have to be pathological either. The mind at that moment is not where you think it is because your head is actually occupied with something that is of far greater concern to you.

Dysnomia is another very common phenomenon that does not necessarily have to be pathological. This is the name given to the difficulty in recognising or remembering certain words but, above all, names. It is so common and depends so much on the character of the person that it can occur at any age, although it is more common among people over 50 because of their age. The most common form of dysnomia is calling one child by the name of another.

What was his name again?

When there were large families, there were parents who were real specialists in dysnomia and were able to say the names of four of their children when, in reality, they wanted to call the fifth. Dysnomia is responsible for the fact that, in a moment of blockage, a stressful moment prevents the speaker from remembering the name of the person in front of him or her, or of the person he or she may have to introduce to a third party. If one is a little absent-minded, the situation becomes more complicated.

Why does this happen? "There is no specific cause. Some people are better at remembering names, lists and everything else than others. We don't all have the same capacity for social relations, the same emotional intelligence or the same gifts for running or putting on weight. Each person is different," sums up Rodríguez Antigüedad.

The forgetfulness of which we are aware need not be a cause for concern. It just happens, and with age it gets worse. The problem begins when you ask the same questions over and over again, get lost in familiar places, become disorientated, find yourself unable to manage money, don’t recognise your children... That, of course, is another story.

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