Simply aging or something more serious?

Forgetting why you came into a room, where your keys are or someone’s name are all signs of a busy life — but they can also be signs of dementia.

Sometimes, the signs are not as obvious as memory loss. Some people may be unable to find the right words, repeat themselves or get lost going to familiar places. When you are unsure that signs and symptoms like these are normal, it is appropriate to get special neuropsychological testing. Neuropsychological testing is testing to see if memory or behavior related problems are related to dementia. If you are over 65, it can be especially valuable to have a baseline test to use in comparison in the coming years. That way, you can track any changes that may occur as you age.

Early detection is important because memory loss, dementia or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease cannot be reversed or stopped, only slowed down.

Dementia is a general term for memory-related issues that interfere with someone’s ability to do normal activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type, and early-stage patients can also develop apathy and depression.

Other types of dementia can cause similar symptoms in the early stages. These symptoms are sometimes caused by a stroke or lack of blood flow to the brain. Other symptoms include hallucinations, trouble with walking and balancing, and problems with sleep.

Not everyone with dementia develops Alzheimer’s, and patients with Alzheimer’s can also develop other types of dementia.

Currently, there are no FDA approved drugs that can stop the progression of dementia, only slow it down; however, my team at the AT&T Memory Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas is researching a series of activities that we can teach patients who have early memory issues to delay the progression of some forms of dementia. This non-pharmaceutical approach will be combined with medicines to help slow dementia and perhaps in the future, stop it altogether.

There are a few things you can do to help lower your risk of dementia. The National Institutes of Health reports that physical activity, a healthy diet, stress reduction, a healthy blood pressure and having control of diabetes all lower a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, interacting with other people regularly can also impact memory. Isolation can be common for older people, so it is important to continue participating in meaningful social activities to lower the risk of dementia and other age-related declines in cognitive ability.

To set up an appointment at the Baylor Neuroscience Center’s AT&T Memory Center, visit BaylorHealth.com/NeuroscienceCenter or call 214-818-5765.

About the author

Kimberly Doyle, PhD

Kimberly C. Doyle, PhD, is a clinical neuropsychologist on the medical staff at Baylor Neuroscience Center’s AT&T Memory Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

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Simply aging or something more serious?