Is it simply aging — or is it Alzheimer’s?
Special to Nevada Appeal
You’ve misplaced your car keys — again. Or you can’t remember a word you’ve used many times, yet it’s right there on the tip of your tongue. The older you get, the more likely you’re apt to wonder: Are memory slips like this early signs of Alzheimer’s disease?
The first thing to know is that mild forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. The concern is when memory problems become serious — you can’t retrace your steps and find those car keys, for instance. Or you don’t eventually come up with the right word.
Know the signs
Alzheimer’s is a disorder of the brain that affects memory, thinking and reasoning. It gets worse over time. Most people display their first signs and symptoms when they’re in their mid-60s. Those signs and symptoms can include:
Getting lost in familiar places.
Having trouble paying bills or managing money.
Misplacing things in odd places. For example, putting mail in the freezer.
Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks.
Losing track of the day or year.
Having trouble following a conversation or recognizing familiar people.
Having difficulties carrying out multi-step tasks, such as getting dressed.
Engaging in impulsive behavior, such as undressing at inappropriate times or places or using vulgar language.
If you or a loved one has memory problems, or you’re concerned about changes in memory and behavior, your first step is to talk to a doctor. It’s important to know that these signs and symptoms may be caused by problems other than Alzheimer’s, and the right care could improve or reverse them.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. But there are medications that might delay progression of the disease. Acting quickly is to your advantage.
You can also practice the following mid-life preventative care tips that might help you in your later years:
Head outside for some hiking or biking — aerobic exercise gets the heart pumping. And that helps keep the brain fed with a healthy supply of blood and oxygen. Physical activity is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline. One large study linked fitness in midlife with a reduced risk for dementia in older age. Just make sure all bike riders wear a helmet — it helps protect the brain from trauma in case of an accident or fall.
Read a book or break out word games for family game night. Challenging your mind may have immediate and lasting benefits for your brain.
Diets high in fruits and vegetables are brain pleasers. Stock up on a rainbow of colors, including: dark-colored vegetables, like kale, spinach, broccoli and beets; berries — blue, black and red; and cherries and plums.
When firing up the grill, throw on some salmon, trout, mackerel or other fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the brain.
Heart-healthy diets that limit saturated fat and sodium may also protect against dementia.
Call 775-782-1599 or go to cvmchospital.org for more information.