Health Notes: April 2016
04/05/2016 08:00AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
by Ellen S. Mullen, M.D
Memory loss is a common complaint among patients. Discovering what is normal, age related memory loss and what may be the beginnings of dementia is important. There are medications which can slow down the rate of dementia although we do not have a cure for dementia. Early diagnosis can slow the progression of the disease process.
There are three types of memory: recent memory may include what you ate for breakfast, short term memory may include the name of a person you met only moments ago and remote or long term memory includes childhood memories. As a person ages they begin to lose brain cells and make less of the chemicals your brain cells need in order to work. This can affect your recent memory but does not usually affect short or long term memory. For example, you may forget the name of a person you met today or where you placed your keys. These are normal changes but do occur more often as we age.
Abnormal or more serious memory changes can affect your daily living. Everyone forgets things and remembers them at a later time. Memory changes that are more significant and that can be an early sign of dementia include forgetting things and not remembering them. Another indication may be finding yourself asking the same question over and over again. An additional sign of a more serious condition may be difficulty performing familiar tasks or not being able to perform a sequence of activities, such as following a recipe. Dementia may also cause you to forget simple words or use the wrong words, making it hard for others to understand what you are saying. Getting lost easily or not being able to find your way home or getting distracted easily, for instance leaving the stove on and burning food, may be a dangerous and significant warning symptom. People with dementia may place things in unusual places such as placing the keys in the refrigerator. Dementia can also produce drastic mood changes where a person will go from smiling to tears in a few minutes.
These are only a few examples of dementia and how it may affect your memory. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have signs of dementia see your doctor and let them do an evaluation. A simple questionnaire can be done in the doctor’s office to determine if memory loss is normal or may be the beginnings of dementia.