The importance of making sure that there is no potentially reversible cause of memory loss cannot be overemphasized. Just imagine taking a memory enhancer like ginkgo biloba or vitamin E when in fact the root cause is medication toxicity or alcohol abuse or depression or hormonal abnormalities. Not only will the memory-enhancing medication have no positive effect, but the fact that things do not improve will also mislead you into thinking that the memory loss must be the first sign of Alzheimer's disease. This can be disastrous, both emotionally and practically. Therefore, if you suffer from mild to moderate memory loss, do not automatically assume that you have age-related memory loss. Rather, you should examine your habits and daily routine to see if there might be an identifiable, potentially reversible, cause.
In the next few chapters you will learn about these specific causes of memory loss and the optimal therapeutic strategies to reverse them. I will focus on common disorders that frequently lead to memory loss, and will not discuss less common causes of memory loss, which include cancer (spread to the brain or general toxicity), multiple sclerosis, HIV infection, and Lyme disease. High fever and other conditions can cause acute memory loss as part of "delirium,'' but these illnesses tend to occur in hospitalized patients and are easily identified; hence they won't be discussed in this book.
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