Forgetful or early Alzheimer’s?

I keep my iPhone plugged in next to my bed. At night while I watch television with my partner, I often write myself notes. Before I go to bed, I email them to myself. Chad is old fashion and prefers paper and pen. In the past I kept lists on random scraps of paper and accumulated them until my briefcase was full of reminders. I stopped using paper because if something came to mind, and I didn’t have anything to write it down on, I’d forget it. Chad sometimes forgets what he was about to write before he even makes it into the other room.

We’re both in our forties. Are we overscheduled, forgetful or experiencing early Alzheimer’s?

Millions of Americans suffer with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which could manifest as lapses in word-finding or name recall. Other examples include forgetting appointments, losing your train of thought in mid conversation and difficulty paying bills.

Dr. Ronald Petersen, a neurologist with the Mayo Clinic described MCI as an intermediate state between the normal changes that occur with age and the severe deficits associated with dementia. Petersen wrote that MCI occurs in 10 to 20 percent of people older than 65. 

Differentiating MCI from normal aging can be difficult. Problems like depression, medication side effects, Vitamin B12 deficiency and underactive thyroid glands can mimic MCI. Patients with HIV experience an increase in cognitive impairment in the long-term. Antiretrovirals that penetrate the central nervous system are being used as first line treatments to prevent future cognitive impairment.

There are people like my best friend Eric who insists he has early Alzheimer’s disease. Eric complains he loses his keys, misplaces his cell phone and forgets appointments. People with MCI often experience prominent impairment, typically forgetting telephone conversations, recent events and important appointments. Being forgetful or what I refer to as pulling an Eric is often just a normal sign of aging.

So what can you do?

It is important to reduce your cardiovascular risk. Smoking, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure can impair memory as does certain medications like, Demerol, certain antidepressants, Valium, and Benadryl (Tylenol PM).

So far there is no conclusive evidence that memory games help reduce  impairment. I do recommend them. For example, can you recall what MCI stands for?

The most promising study focused on regular exercise, which reduced amyloid accumulations in the brain. This study performed in Australia had patients walk for 150 minutes a week to improve cognitive function.

So next time you forget your doctor’s appointment, don’t pull an Eric and blame it on early Alzheimer’s. Chances are if you have a career and live in a city, you more than likely suffer from being just too busy.

4 Comments

  1. Posted September 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I have read that memory is greatly compartmentalized. It is common to forget one’s keys, sunglasses, etc because they are common, mundane objects with little importance and we prioritize when memorizing.

    This can be combated by putting objects such as keys in the same place, like buy a key hook to hang them on, or a cache pot by the entry table to dump the daily needs in.

    I am surprised you did not mention hydration. I believe dehydration is the NUMBER ONE reason for the majority of non pathogen illness, include memory loss…

    There is a great book called “You’re not sick, you’re thirsty” which everyone should read.

    Anyway, also, I do the Times Crossword puzzle, and how I accomplished this was by starting with the easy Monday puzzles. The puzzles are progressively harder each day during the week.

    Once you catch on to how puzzles are clued, you will enrich your vocabulary greatly and twist your perspective around to increase cognitive flexibility and the plasticity of your neuron-linguistic ability.

    I still use brightly colored post its if I am afraid of forgetting, but that problem is not one of memory it is one of fear.

    good post doctor!!

  2. Posted September 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    neuro-linguistic is that even a word… sometimes I make words up but you can do that!

  3. Posted September 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Hydration is important because we are made of tiny bags of water like grapes. when cells dry, like rasins hardning on the vine, our brain loses plasticity. it is very important to keep your brain full of water, and for an adult I who is active I say a gallon a day especially if you drink coffee and or SMOKE..

    we lose a TON of water sleeping so hydrate as soon as you WAKE UP.. drink WATER upon waking instead of coffee, as habit, you can literally feel your body re-hydrating. It feels good.

  4. Posted September 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    i grown male of average size… i don’t know

    you can get water drunk

    you can leech your body of minerals so drinking water can be dangerous too

    I’m not a doctor


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