Memory starts declining when we reach our 60’s. It happens to everyone. So, forgetting your car keys doesn’t necessarily mean that you have Alzheimer’s.
As regular readers know, I am very sensitive to dementia in general and Alzheimer’s in particular having lost three family members who were afflicted. To clarify: Dementia is not a disease but a group of different diseases characterized by the gradual worsening of cognitive abilities. Dementia is seen across all ethnic groups and increasingly so with advancing age. Among 65–69-year-olds, about two percent are afflicted, with this figure doubling for every five years of age. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases.
Alzheimer’s doesn’t happen overnight. For that reason it is worthwhile to have your memory tested so that you have a baseline to compare. So says, Sandra Weintraub, Ph.D., speaking to the Northwestern Memorial Healthy Transitions Program®.
There is no 100 percent accurate test for Alzheimer’s while the patient is alive. Only an autopsy can confirm that there was Alzheimer’s in the brain, Dr. Weintraub said. Presently, 90 percent of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s actually have it post-mortem.
Dr. Weintraub offered several interesting statistics on the disease. Alzheimer’s strikes African Americans more than Hispanics and the least likely to get it are Caucasians. In addition, more women suffer from it than men. She said there was no explanation for this breakdown at present.
One of the keys to memory loss and Alzheimer’s is self-awareness, according to Dr. Weintraub. If a person forgets their keys and worries about it, that is normal. However, if a person forgets their keys and doesn’t know it, that is more troublesome. Likewise, entering a room and forgetting why the person went there can happen to a normal person. However, a person who might be beginning Alzheimer’s would not remember that he had come for a reason.
Dr. Weintraub offered a number of answers to the question: Why do we forget?
She said that seniors don’t multitask as well as they did when they were younger. There can be distractions. Hearing loss plays a part as well as fatigue and amnesia.
On the emotional side, she offered medications as a reason, metabolic disorders, sensory loss and brain disorders, like stroke or tumor.
In conclusion, Dr. Weintraub suggested a visit to a cognitive neurology center and getting a brain checkup. That way, a patient can detect symptoms of concern as well as identify abnormalities for one’s age.