Spotting the Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Is It Alzheimer’s?

How do you tell the difference between typical memory loss and early signs of Alzheimer’s disease? To get started answering that question, take a look at the guideline below from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to recognize some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s:

  • Is it hard to remember things?
  • Do you ask the same questions over and over?
  • Do you have trouble paying the bills or with simple math problems?
  • Do you get lost in locations you know well?
  • Do you lose items or put them in unusual places?

Of course, as we age, we all occasionally misplace the house keys or forget the name of our neighbor. Those kinds of memory lapses are not surprising in older adults. But if answered yes to any of the above questions, you should consider seeing a doctor.

 How the doctor can help

 A checkup for memory loss may include:

  • A medical history that includes all your prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Understanding you well you function on everyday activities, like shopping, paying bills and driving
  • Examining how you do on memory, problem-solving, language and counting problems
  • Medical tests, including blood and urine
  • A brain scan, which can rule out other possible causes

 Of course, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’ but that doesn’t mean there’s no help. Doctors manage the disease through the use of support groups, physical and mental activities and medications.

 Alzheimer’s disease and normal aging: a comparison

Alzheimer’s

Normal aging

Frequently making poor decisions

Making poor decisions every once in a while

Difficulty handling monthly bills

Sometimes forgetting a payment

Losing track of the day or time of year

Occasionally forgetting what day it is

Having a hard time talking to others

Sometimes forgetting the right word

Frequently losing items or putting them in odd locations

Losing items from time to time

Can you improve your memory? Yes!

Some memory problems can be helped. Try these activities:

  • Physical activity is a great way to improve overall health, including your memory. That’s because exercise improves blood flow to the brain. Aim for 30 minutes every day. To make it more fun, invite a friend.
  • Speaking of friends: while Facebook is a wonderful way to stay in touch with people, it’s also important to get together with others.
  • Try a new hobby, such joining a book club, Sudoku, crossword puzzles or dancing.
  • Control your stress. While it’s easier said than done, stress produces a hormone called cortisol, which has been linked to short-term memory loss in older adults.

It’s not always Alzheimer’s

If you’re having trouble remember things, that doesn’t mean it’s Alzheimer’s. Memory loss can also be caused by medication side effects, vitamin B12 deficiency, tumors, infections or blood clots in the brain and other reasons. Reach out to your doctor if you’re concerned about your memory. And if you haven’t had your annual wellness exam, this might be a good time to schedule it.

Most recent update: 1/4/2018

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