Showing posts with label symptoms of dementia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label symptoms of dementia. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Do You Have Alzheimers or Dementia?

As we grow older, every memory lapse can cause us to worry and wonder if we are getting some type of dementia, especially Alzheimers.  The slightest mistake or moment of confusion can strike fear in our hearts.  If we are married or have elderly parents, we may carefully observe everything they say and do, watching for signs of cognitive impairment.  When we do see the symptoms, it can be heart-breaking.

My own mother, pictured here, died of dementia in her mid-80s.  By the time she died, she was very confused about where she was living and who lived with her.  She could no longer drive or handle money. She recognized my father and sister, but was hostile towards most other people.  Her dementia was obvious, but that is not always the case.  How do we know if everything is operating normally with our brains, or when we should be worried?

Fortunately, the Cleveland Clinic has put together a list of behaviors which are normal, along with a list of memory problems which can indicate a serious problem.

Normal Cognitive Aging of the Brain

*  Trouble remembering a phone number
*  Forgetting where you left your car keys
*  Taking longer to perform basic math
*  Forgetting why you entered a room
*  Momentarily forgetting the next step in a process
*  Forgetting the name of a public figure or a person you have not seen in a while
*  Taking longer to come up with the right word

Abnormal Cognitive Impairment or Signs of Dementia

*  Difficulty managing your finances
*  Problems performing tasks which involve a sequence
*  Failing to recognize familiar people
*  Getting lost in familiar places; inability to follow directions
*  Problems following your medication prescriptions
*  Trouble remembering how to do things you have done many times before
*  Asking the same questions repeatedly
*  Difficulty following conversations
*  Easily losing your train of thought
*  Increasingly poor judgment

Relax if the Cognitive Impairment is Mild

If the majority of your memory lapses fall in the top category, it is time to relax.  Some memory and cognitive problems are normal for everyone, beginning in your 60s.  Feeling stress, or worrying and obsessing over your memory will only make things worse, so lighten up on yourself.

What to do if the Cognitive Impairment Seems Abnormal

If you or someone you care about is having memory lapses which fall in the second category, you need to become more proactive.  There are several actions you can take.  Most of these actions are a good idea, even if your memory seems normal:

*  Talk to your doctor about prescription medications which could help slow down the dementia symptoms
*  Ask your doctor to make sure you are not experiencing a B12 deficiency, thyroid problems, or side effects from your medications
*  If you are experiencing hearing or vision loss, sleep apnea, or depression, get those problems treated because they can lead to dementia
*  If you smoke or drink too much, give up these high-risk behaviors
*  Eat a heart healthy, Mediterranean-style diet that is plant based; anything which is good for the heart is also good for the brain
*  Get at least 30 minutes of exercise, such as brisk walking, a minimum of 5 times a week
*  Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and other blood factors at optimal levels
*  Play online brain games, particularly those which involve speed of processing.  They have been shown to be the most effective games at slowing down your cognitive decline.  Check out Luminosity or any number of brain game apps on your smartphone or mobile device.
*  Stimulate your brain in other ways, such as reading books, solving crossword puzzles, learning a foreign language or how to play a musical instrument.
*  Stay socially engaged with other people.  Isolation increases your dementia risk.

Learn more about dementia from the Cleveland Clinic website.

If you are interested in learning more about common health problems as we age, financial planning, where to retire in the U.S. or overseas, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of other useful articles.

Watch for my book "Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement" which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit: Author's personal family photo

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Early Diagnosis of Dementia is Possible

Many people mistakenly believe that every time they misplace their car keys or forget an appointment, it is an early sign of dementia ... including Alzheimer's Disease.  The truth is that everyone sometimes forgets something.  However, that does not mean that early diagnosis of dementia is not possible.  Researchers have discovered that changes in behavior or personality could be a better way to predict dementia than occasional forgetfulness.

Mild Behavioral Impairment Could Indicate Brain Changes

Dr. Zahinoor Ismail of the University of Calgary and his team of researchers have compiled a checklist of symptoms which could be a red flag for doctors and families who are watching for signs of mental decline.  In putting together the checklist, they discovered that the brain changes that eventually lead to dementia can affect other parts of the brain years earlier.  In fact, people can develop signs of behavior impairment as much as a decade or two before they begin to show memory loss.

Symptoms of Behavioral Changes

Among the behavior changes which could be symptoms of future dementia are:

Has the patient lost interest in their favorite activities?
Are they getting unusually anxious, aggressive or suspicious?
Are they making crude or inappropriate comments in public?
Have they developed signs of depression?
Are they experiencing "sundowning" ... agitation or memory problems which are worse late in the day?
Have they become apathetic?
Do they get anxious about activities which have always been routine?
Are they losing their impulse control?
Have they started flaunting social norms?
Are they losing their appetite or showing less interest in food?

Dr Ismail emphasizes that these changes should be new problems that last more than six months.  In addition, they should not be problems that can be explained in other ways, such as by a clear mental health diagnosis or the recent death of a loved one. These need to be new behaviors.

Early Treatment Can Delay Alzheimer's Disease and Other Types of Dementia

If you notice that you or someone you love has developed recent personality or behavioral changes, it could be worth it to discuss the problem with your family doctor.  There are treatments which have been successful in slowing the progression of dementia.  It is also possible that early treatment could be even more successful if it is started as soon as mild behavioral impairment is noticed.

Medications are available to help people control their depression, anxiety and irritability, which could make life easier for both the patients and their family members.

Other Ways to Slow Down Dementia

Many researchers believe working crossword puzzles and playing a variety of brain games could slow down the development of dementia.  While these games may help, it is possible that social activities could be even more important.  Researchers from the University of Wisconsin reported their findings that "complex jobs that require working with people may help the brain build resilience against dementia, what's called 'cognitive reserve.'" 

In addition to being engaged in complex activities with other people, researchers from the University of South Florida discovered that reaction-time training could significantly decrease your risk of being diagnosed with dementia.  In the study, led by Dr. Jerri Edwards, 14 percent of people in a control group that received no intervention were diagnosed with dementia a decade later.  Those who had received just ten hours of reaction-time training over a five-week period lowered their risk of a dementia diagnosis to 12 percent; those who continued to get extra booster training lowered their rate of diagnosis to 8 percent.  The booster training consisted of four extra sessions one year after the original training and four more two years later.  The scientists measured the cognitive and functional changes at the beginning of the study, as well as at the one, two, three, five and ten year marks.  They found the group that did the speed training had 33 percent less risk of dementia when compared to the control group.  Even better, those that did at least 11 speed-training sessions were at 48 percent less risk for developing dementia over the ten years of the study.  The speed training consisted of a computer program in which the participants were asked to identify objects on a screen quickly.  The program got harder with each correct answer.

Other researchers have discovered that getting exercise, learning new skills, being involved in a religious organization, eating the Mediterranean diet, and socializing are all good ways to reduce dementia risk.

If you are interested in learning more about lowering your risk of dementia or developing other health problems, finding good places to retire, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.


You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit: 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Relax - Slight Memory Loss is Normal!

In the past couple of months, I have written several posts about Alzheimer's disease and dementia.  It is an issue that concerns nearly everyone over the age of 60.  However, the good news is that most of us will NOT become seriously disabled by dementia.  Since that is true, we certainly do not want to worry ourselves sick every time we forget a name or lose our keys.  How can we tell the difference between real dementia and normal memory loss?

Slower Recall is Normal as We Age

If you have been a jogger, hiker or tennis player most of your life, you probably accept the fact that your ability to perform these activities has slowed down a bit as you aged.  (Let's be honest, it may have slowed down a lot.)  At the same time, if you are a little less quick to remember a name or some other information, your slower thinking ability is as normal as your slower physical ability.

Here's how you can tell the difference:  If it just takes you a few extra minutes to recall the information or, when prompted, you can instantly confirm that the suggested information is correct, this means you still have the memory and it has not been completely lost.  It is normal to have trouble recalling all our memories as we age.

On the other hand, if you cannot remember something at all and, even when prompted by someone else, the name or event does not seem familiar to you, then you really are losing portions of your memory.  That is the beginning of dementia.

Distractions Can Make it Harder for Anyone to Remember Things

In addition to recalling information more slowly, we may also have a lot on our minds, especially if we lead busy lives ... which is true for most of us Baby Boomers.  Are you still working, involved in family activities, belong to clubs, caring for relatives, planning trips, paying bills, and feeling overwhelmed at times by all the demands on your time?  As we age and tire out more easily, all these obligations may make it even more difficult to recall details or retrieve new information ... such as where we set down our keys or the doctor's appointment we made.

If you are busy and preoccupied, with a number of thoughts running through your head, it is not unusual to have difficulty recalling certain details and automatic actions, no matter what your age.  That is normal.

On the other hand, if you are relaxed and have plenty of time and opportunity to focus on what is going on, and you still cannot recall important events or information, then that could be a sign of dementia.

Flipping the Dementia Statistics

When I reported a few weeks ago on the University of California - Irvine study that showed the prevalence of Alzheimers and dementia in our population, I realize the article focused primarily on the bad news ... that a small number of us will develop dementia and the percentage doubles every five years.

In other words, I pointed out that by age 90 approximately 10% of the people who are still alive will have dementia.  That means that 90% of people will NOT have dementia, even by the age of 90.  At age 85, only 5% of us will have dementia ... leaving 95% of us with normally functioning memories ... despite the fact that our thinking may be a bit slower. 

According to an article in the "2014 Answers Guide" published by the Orange County Council on Aging, people who are aware enough to ask whether or not their memory loss is normal, do not usually have a serious problem ... which is certainly a relief to know.

Relax.  Dementia is something that most of us will not have to worry about!  Now ... where did I put my keys?


"What is 'Normal' Memory Loss," 2014 Answers Guide, Orange County Council on Aging, page 40.

University of California-Irvine, 90+ Study on residents of Laguna Woods Village

If you are interested in other medical issues that will affect us as we age, check out the Medical Concerns tab at the top of this article.  You will also find tabs with suggestions on where to live after retirement, financial planning, family issues and more.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo credit: