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.