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Are those memory lapses a sign of something serious?

March 31, 2012
Barbara Venezia
The other day I was looking for something in my office. I couldn’t remember where I put it. Granted my office is a bit messy, and some level of absent-mindedness is expected these days. I’m multi-tasking like crazy so isn’t an occasional brain-fart normal?
 But are these lapses in memory clues of something more serious than silly?
Last July Newport’s Hoag Hospital started the OC Vital Aging program. Located at Hoag’s Neuroscience Institute, the program’s goal is to “”maintain a healthy brain through education, risk factors, management, prevention and timely intervention.””
Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki, (aka Dr. BZ) executive medical director of Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute, says research indicates 33 percent of patients over 65 years old have mild cognitive impairment. Ninety percent of patients will not be diagnosed until the brain disease is sometimes too far along for treatment to be effective.
It is estimated that as many as 1.1 million will suffer with Alzheimer’s disease by 2030 as our population ages. Recent statistics show up to 5.4 million Americans are affected, as well as 14.9 million caregivers, at a total national cost of $183 billion. Alzheimer’s disease is now the 6th leading cause of death overall, the 5th leading in Americans 65 and older.
Dr. BZ is quick to point out that Alzheimer’s is only one form of dementia. If you add in other dementia-related illnesses, it’s staggering the emotional and financial toll on society. This is why the new OC Vital Aging program is so important.
On their website you can take a self-assessment test, find participating doctors in your area, as well as seminar information. The program also invites physicians to learn more about up-to-date therapies and guidelines for managing patients.
On the same floor in the Neuroscience Institute are the offices of Dr. William R. Shankle, director of Hoag’s Memory and Cognitive Disorder Program?. Dr. Shankle is considered a trail-blazer in his field and regularly speaks to groups throughout the county.
But the key here is early detection. That’s what Dr. BZ stressed the day I visited. So when he asked if I’d like to take a memory test, I have to tell you I was a bit hesitant. I think he sensed it, asking if I had yearly physicals, which I do.
“”So why not check the health of your brain?”” he said.
The test is free – you can sign up on the website. Program Coordinator Celine Keeble administered my memory test. It took about 15 to 20 minutes.
She began by asking me to repeat 10 random words after her. Then I had to remember the 10 words and repeat back to her. We did this three times.
All three times I was able to only recall eight of the10 words. She then asked questions about groupings of animals. She said there weren’t any right or wrong answers. Then she asked me to name all animals mentioned, which I did correctly.
According to Celine my score of 70 was good and normal for my age, anything 50 or under indicates a cognitive issue. Whew!
I made another appointment for next year, and plan to include this as part of my yearly physical.
I also went home and organized my messy office and desk. No more brain farts here.

To view the original OC Register article please click here.