I’m concerned about my forgetfulness…
…is this normal or should I be worried about Alzheimer’s?
This is a very common question and a looming fear in the minds of many seniors. Researchers say that we are twice as worried about the loss of cognitive capacity compared to the loss of physical capacity. All of us have memory lapses, occasional trouble finding the right word or name – those annoying senior moments. It can be unsettling.
At Sun and Sea Manor, we serve the Imperial Beach, South Bay, Chula Vista, & South San Diego area. We are committed to the health & flourishing of all our residents with a loving embrace designed for whole person well-being! Read on to find out more about Alzheimer’s & dementia.
This comparison chart created by the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org) shows that the key distinction between “typical age-related changes” and an actual diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia is the frequency, severity, and degree of impact that the changes have on one’s daily life.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALZHEIMER’S AND TYPICAL AGE-RELATED CHANGES?
The occasionally missed bill or lost word, or even lost keys are not red flags. But if changes in memory or thinking skills are being noticed by concerned friends and family, due to a pattern of repeating words or stories, an inability to remember a recent situation when reminded of it, a significant change in mood or affect, or disorientation in a familiar place – these are calls for a professional assessment.
But take heart! This is not an automatic downward slide into a dementia diagnosis! It might be a call to action on another health issue that is mimicking dementia. The best first steps are to make an appointment with your primary care physician or a neurologist if you already see one. Make a list of all concerns and behaviors. Also list, or take with you, all current medications and supplements.
There are a number of “reversible dementias,” with sudden or slow onset, that can be well managed if addressed. These include dehydration, thyroid issues, urinary tract infections, depression, drug interactions, vitamin deficiencies, and excessive use of alcohol. These are the most common “pretenders,” but there are many more. So speedy and appropriate intervention can alleviate both the symptoms and the debilitating fear. A physician can sort these out with speed and skill.
Many people are embarrassed by the possible loss of mental capacity and even tend to isolate to cover for it. It is so important to not allow the fear to dominate – often a loved one needs to start the medical intervention ball rolling when a concern arises.
The correction of the treatable condition can be quite dramatic, as in cases of urinary tract infections and dehydration. As soon as the root cause is addressed, one is returned to their normal baseline. Allowing issues like depression or excessive alcohol consumption to go unaddressed can have more lasting effects on the brain.
But remember – the odds are with us in early intervention. The earlier we intervene, either with “typical” age-related memory loss or an actual dementia diagnosis, the better the outcome. There are so many things that we CAN do to help ourselves. Prevention and delay of symptom onset are the primary strategies at all levels of cognitive loss. Get answers and develop a game plan.
What To Do
Here are some first steps:
Lead with your heart!
All of your “blood numbers” matter in brain health: blood pressure, cholesterol, and most importantly blood sugar! Keeping these within the recommended ranges is a primary brain booster!
Feed your brain!
“Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.
(Apples are food, Twinkies are not.)”
SO much has been written and spoken about diet! Hard to get a good grasp! But these simple words by Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and Food Rules, sums it up pretty clearly. High antioxidant foods are particularly brain-helpful. Berries and leafy greens have been shown to offer an especially noteworthy boost for the gray matter.
Movin’ & Groovin’
Healthy food choices and regular exercise are the two most significant contributors to demonstrate a reduced incidence of dementia. These have been shown repeatedly in studies to increase well-being in every regard and to protect that precious bundle of tissues inside our skulls. Choose something, anything that you enjoy, that moves your muscles, lymph, and blood!
Use it or lose it!
We have heard this for decades in reference to muscle mass, but it is equally true of mental mass. Reading, games, foreign languages, making music, etc. all support the brain cells and synaptic connections that are present. Anything that is new and challenging to us can stimulate new growth that is protective of mental capacity.
Social and familial connections are often lost as a person ages; life changes can lead to isolation. This can be devastating to brain health. Connecting with others in positive and meaningful ways is important for cognitive stability. Conversing, joining a club or class, and volunteering is all ways to keep the “head lights” on and the brain cells humming!
So we encourage you to try some new things to add to your Health Treasure Chest so together we can