What Causes a Poor Memory?

Nearly 40% of people experience some form of memory loss after turning 65 years old. However, many people experience more significant issues than others and some people experience memory issues at a much younger age.

If you or someone you know has been suffering from poor memory, then it’s important that you get to the bottom of the issue. Although aging can lead to memory problems and confusion, there are other culprits as well.

Read on as we tell you more about what can cause poor memory.

How Aging Plays a Role in Memory Loss

Many people understand that aging can be a big contributor to memory loss.

Adults tend to become somewhat more forgetful as they age. This is normal and usually isn’t anything to worry about for the most part. A small amount of memory loss due to aging won’t have a big impact on a person’s life.

On the other hand, there are some adults whose memory issues progress and become more significant. These memory conditions are listed below.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a stage of memory loss that goes a bit beyond what would be expected of an older adult.

Mild cognitive impairment may cause someone to forget things from time to time, miss appointments, or fail to follow the thread of a conversation. However, this early stage of memory loss doesn’t usually affect one’s life significantly.

Adults who have mild cognitive impairment can typically perform most everyday tasks and communicate with others just fine, for the most part.


With an advanced progression of memory loss comes dementia.

Dementia is a set of symptoms that includes the impairment of memory, judgment, and cognitive abilities. It’s a gradual progression that will get worse over time and can seriously disrupt a person’s daily life, routine, and relationships.

Dementia typically occurs in older adults who are 65 years of age or older. Various diseases can progress to dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and limbic predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy (LATE).

Although there are treatments that can help with dementia symptoms, there is currently no cure for the disease.

Other Memory Loss Causes

There are many other causes of memory loss besides those related to aging. Many of these are temporary or reversible issues.

Here are some of the causes of poor memory that you should know about.

Poor Sleep

One of the things that can cause memory loss and forgetfulness is a lack of quality sleep. Quality sleep is more important than people realize, and not getting enough of it can lead to a variety of issues in the mind and body.

If you suffer from sleep conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnea, you may end up becoming more fatigued. This could also lead to increased anxiety and depression as well. You may also experience memory loss and brain fog problems in your daily life.

Anxiety and Stress

Whether it’s caused by a lack of sleep or other reasons, stress, anxiety, and depression can all lead to a harder time remembering things. These mood issues can make it harder to concentrate and focus attention, causing difficulty with both recalling memories and creating new ones.

If you feel stress or anxiety regularly, then you should work to improve your mental well-being to reduce memory issues.

Thyroid Issues

Thyroid problems can lead to poor memory as well. An underactive thyroid could affect your memory and cause problems with remembering certain things.

On top of this, thyroid problems can also cause sleep and mood disorders as well, so this can make the effect even worse.

B12 Deficiency

Being deficient in B12 could also lead to an increased level of forgetfulness as well. Many people are deficient in B12, which is an essential nutrient for maintaining healthy nerve function and red blood cells.

A vitamin B-12 deficiency is common in older adults, especially those that are over 75 years old. Other risk factors to look out for include drinking alcohol often, eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, or having a digestive system disorder. 


Having a habit to consume excessive amounts of alcohol can also lead to short-term memory problems, even when you’re not currently drinking.

In general, it’s best to limit your drinking as much as you can. As a man, aim for no more than two alcoholic drinks a day. As a woman, aim for only one alcoholic drink.

This will give you the best chance of keeping your memory and mind healthy.


Certain medications may also lead to forgetfulness and confusion as well. If you’re on any medications, you’ll want to speak with your doctor to ensure that they’re not the cause of your problems.

Among others, some medications that may affect memory include antidepressants, tranquilizers, and blood pressure drugs.

Minor Head Injuries

Minor or significant head injuries and trauma can lead to memory problems as well.

Experiencing an accident and hurting your head can make a significant impact on your memory. This is true even if you don’t go unconscious from the accident.


If you experience a stroke, you could also experience memory problems and an inability to think clearly. A stroke can cause blockages in the blood vessels leading to the brain.

Even silent strokes in which no symptoms are immediately noticeable can also cause problems with brain function as well.


People who have aphantasia may also suffer from memory problems as well. At the very least, they may experience memories in different ways than most people do since they have the inability to visualize.

If you have either acquired or congenital aphantasia, it’s important to understand aphantasia effects on memory.

Understanding the Potential Causes of a Poor Memory

If you or someone you know has been suffering from poor memory, it could be due to one of the issues listed above. While some memory decline can be expected due to aging, there are many other causes of memory loss issues as well.

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