I felt like an idiot sitting in the restaurant on my own. Time ticked by and I tried not to look at my mobile for the zillionth time to see how long I’d already been there, looking like sad, middle-aged woman who’d been stood up. I wanted to stand up and explain to the restaurant that I was waiting for a friend I’d bumped into last week, OK?

After 45 minutes I couldn’t stand it any longer and I sent her a text. Next minute the cossack tune blared from my mobile, and it was her. She’d forgotten all about meeting me. She’s sorry, can’t think what happened, how could she forget, so on and so on …

That’s a baby boomer in action. To be honest, I’ve forgotten some things, too, of late. And my memory specialist sister, Dr. Allison Lamont, tells me that there’s a heap of reasons why it might be happening, not many of them good news!

People call memory loss by many names: forgetfulness, amnesia, impaired memory, loss of memory, mild cognitive impairment but basically it refers to any forgetting that is out of the ordinary. And it seems that boomers have growing worries about it because it’s not fun to miss appointments, forget birthdays or to take medication. That could even be dangerous.

There are heaps of causes of memory loss, getting older being one of them. But boomers can push back against forgetting with training so that’s a comfort for me and my friend.

More significant memory loss occurs, though, when diseases are involved. There’s a whole list of those and I’ll put some of the most common of them for you at the end of this article. You’ll need to visit a doctor to be sure if you are worried that your memory loss is more serious than just standing me up for lunch.

The doctor will ask you all kinds of questions to help understand what kind of memory loss it is.

Can you remember recent events (is there impaired short-term memory)
Can you remember events from further in the past (that's about your long-term memory)?
Have you just forgotten what happened before or after a specific experience (amnesia)?
Do you make up stuff to cover gaps in memory?

The doc will also want to know about whether your moods affect your concentration and whether the memory loss has been getting worse over years, weeks or months. It’s also important to know if it’s there all the time or only now and then. Knowing if you’ve had a head injury in the recent past, surgery needing anaesthetic, seizures or an emotionally traumatic event will be taken into consideration.

You probably know that alcohol and illegal/illicit drugs are bad news for memory, so you’d better be honest with the doc about that.

Other symptoms might have something to do with your memory loss so knowing if you have been confused or disoriented, whether you can eat, dress, and generally look after yourself will be on the check list of questions.

Of course, they'll do all the normal things you would expect, like blood tests looking for low vitamin B12 or thyroid disease, CT scan or MRI of the head, cognitive or psychometric tests, an EEG or even a lumbar puncture.

So, memory loss shouldn’t be taken lightly, particularly if you have other worrying symptoms..

For most boomers, though, actively challenging and training your perfectly normal brain will overcome memory loss and, in fact, in Seven Second Memory Plus Six Other Powerful Memory Techniques: Rewire your Brain for a Youthful Mind, you will find out how easy it is to remember as well as you did in your youth - maybe even better.

Footnote: Common Causes of More Serious Memory Loss

Alzheimer's disease
Brain damage due to disease or injury
Brain growths (caused by tumors or infection)
Brain infections such as Lyme disease or syphilis
Depression or emotional trauma
Drugs such as barbiturates or benzodiazepines
Encephalitis of any type (herpes, West Nile, Eastern Equine)
General anesthetics such as halothane, isoflurane, and fentanyl
Head trauma or injury
Hysteria, often accompanied by confusion
Illness that results in the loss of nerve cells
Nutritional problems (vitamin deficiencies such as low vitamin B12)
Temporal lobe brain surgery

Author's Bio: 

Gillian Eadie, M.Ed, BA, DipTchg, LTCL, Churchill Fellow, HFNZCS.

Gillian is an award-winning educator whose career includes 20 years as a school principal in prestigious private schools. She has established the Brain and Memory Foundation with her sister, Dr. Allison Lamont, PhD, MA (Hons), whose research into age-related memory loss has been internationally acclaimed and published by Verlag in 2008. Their articles, books and memory programs are scientifically based on Dr. Lamont's research findings. They focus on the key skills needed to keep brains active, alert and growing at any age. Jenny, their mother, at 93, has Alzheimer's and seeing the devastating impact Alzheimer's has on families has motivated both daughters to urge all baby boomers to take steps, while brain skills are intact in their 50's, to develop the cognitive reserve that will buffer them against memory loss later in life. Gillian and Allison are baby boomers themselves, have addressed international conferences and have achieved book sales of “Seven Second Memory” in USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Zambia and New Zealand.
Websites: Gillian Eadie - Brain and Memory Foundation
Seven Second Memory. Rewire your brain for a youthful mind.