Is this forgetfulness or something more serious?
Forgetting things is fairly common, particularly as we get older. I think about the brain as a file cabinet, the older we are, the more files and the longer it might take to find what we are looking for, but eventually we do. In patients with Alzheimer’s, the files have been removed, from the most recent back. This is why they don’t remember what they had for breakfast, and often times forget grandchildren.
Signs that are concerning for memory loss include lack of attention to personal care issues, leaving dangerous equipment (stoves, irons, etc.) on, or forgetting how to drive to known locations. Also, people may not be able to do normal things, such as balance a checkbook or pay bills. Often times they are not aware of the problems. There can be behavioral changes, from anger to withdrawal from social activities. We have a great resource in Memory Matters, where they will test your memory and give you advice to keep your memory as good as it can be.
Does technology overload affect the chances of dementia?
In 2012, Manfred Spitzer, a German neuroscientist coined the phrase “Digital Dementia.” What is this? Does it really exist, and how can we prevent it?
We have access at our fingertips to more information than ever. No longer do we have to memorize phone numbers or directions. We are more likely to look something up with Google rather than use our own brain. As a result, people are seeing issues with short-term memory.
We have become digital multitaskers, watching TV, checking email on line, and Facebook on our phones. We text rather than have in person conversations. Some can’t put their technology to bed, which causes sleep to suffer and the brain not to recharge. Digital overload can potentially cause attention issues and reduce productivity.
How do we address the issue? First, we need to recognize the behavior and how it impacts our environment and social interactions. Scheduling technology down times can be very effective. Don’t take your devices to bed; get an alarm clock that isn’t your cell phone. Use your creative brain to do something new. Have conversations in person with your friends, sharing new and old information without the Internet.
- Laura C. Knobel, M.D. | www.knobelmd.com -
Are there any promising advances in treating memory diseases?
You put your keys somewhere, and now you can’t find them. You go to the kitchen, and you can’t remember what you needed. Don’t worry. Most likely you will be able to locate your keys and get that drink of water. These mild memory lapses are usually just part of the normal aging process. But when forgetfulness begins to impact daily activities, you may need to talk with your doctor about your concerns.
You begin to lose brain cells a few at a time in your 20s. At the same time, your body starts to make less of the chemicals needed to make brain cells work. As you age, these changes affect your memory. Short-term memory (what you had for breakfast) and remote memory (where you spent your childhood) usually do not change. But recent memory (the name of someone you met recently) may be affected by aging.
To combat these minor memory gaps, try staying more organized. Keep lists, color code or label items, follow a routine and mark dates on a calendar. Remember to put important things, like keys or eyeglasses, in the same place every time. Other things that can help refresh your memory include repeating someone’s name when you first meet them and remembering a location by relating it to a familiar landmark.
Some memory loss, however, may have other causes, such as depression, thyroid disease, nutritional deficiencies, drug side effects, stroke, head injury, alcoholism, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. To evaluate memory loss, your doctor may take a medical history: Perform physical and neurological examinations; request blood or urine tests; or conduct brain-imaging studies. Results are evaluated to determine if the cause of memory loss can be treated, or is due to a more serious condition.
Are there foods that boost brainpower?
While memory loss cannot be prevented, there are some steps you can take to help reduce your risk of developing memory problems.
• Don’t smoke or abuse alcohol. • Exercise regularly.
• Engage in social activities. • Keep your brain active.
• Follow a diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and healthy oils, nuts and seeds.
The difference between normal cases of forgetfulness and more serious problems is that, with dementia, symptoms gradually get worse over time. It’s one thing to forget where you parked the car on occasion, but quite another to frequently miss appointments. Talk with your doctor if you feel memory loss may be preventing you from performing daily tasks, or affecting your quality of life.
-Hilton Head Hospital | www.hiltonheadregional.com -
There are many brain games available online that promote improved memory, focus, language skills, executive functions and more, but do these games really work?
Anything we can do to challenge our brain is important, especially when someone does not have a diagnosis of dementia or MCI (mild cognitive impairment). In fact, these types of mental exercises can help delay the odds of developing cognitive problems. But understand once someone has been diagnosed with a dementia beyond MCI, brain games probably do not make a significant difference.
Why? Because once diagnosed most dementias are progressive. With that being said, these type games are fun and challenging “in the moment” so why not?
“Mentally stimulating activities, perhaps in combination with known healthy life styles such as exercise, are simple and inexpensive activities that can potentially protect people against the development of mild cognitive impairment,” according to a senior study by Dr. Yonas E. Geda, a neurology researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Memory Matters offers FREE base line memory screenings, using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA). Anyone 55+ should consider having this screening, and share their results with their physician. This baseline could identify potential areas of cognitive decline.
What resources are available in the Lowcountry for those with memory issues?
For over 20 years Memory Matters has be known for its compassion and dedication. This organization is nationally recognized for offering cutting edge programs for persons with dementia and classes for persons who want to keep their brain healthy.
Some of the resources offered at Memory Matters:
• FREE base line memory screenings. Anyone 55+ should consider this 15-minute test that is designed to help spot memory decline and maybe encourage people to get support sooner rather than later.
• Two classes for persons with MCI (mild cognitive impairment), or someone who is concerned about changes in their memory with no diagnosis.
• Social day program, which offers persons with dementia their “best brain day” and a five-hour break for their caregiver!
• Support groups, private counseling and educational seminars
Hilton Head and Bluffton are very fortunate to have Memory Matters in their neighborhood. There are very few organizations like this in the nation. “We know that there are many more people in our community who could be using, and need our services. Most people have no idea of the type and scope of services we offer, yes, they may know our name, but not what we do,” said Karen Doughtie, Assistant Executive Director at Memory Matters.
Learn More about Memory Matters
Attend the Brain Health Summit 2018 on April 25, 2018.
Log on or call for more information.