Does it seem like you’re always looking for your keys when you walk
out the door? Are you repeating yourself during conversations or can’t
remember small details? Are you concerned that your memory is getting worse?
A certain amount of memory decline is to be expected as our brains age
but when should you be worried about significant cognitive impairment
that may need medical intervention?
Conditions such as anxiety, sleep deprivation, ADHD,
depression, thyroid gland disease, diabetes, vitamin deficiency, infections and medications
can cause significant memory loss. The effects can often be reversed after
finding the cause and with the appropriate treatment. It is important
to recognize and be proactive if your medical or genetic history indicates
you may be at risk for memory loss due to these conditions1.
Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and dementia are the
first culprits a patient associates with memory loss, and usually the
worst-case scenario. Through early diagnosis and treatment, doctors can
work toward a reduced rate of memory decline and often allow patients
to continue living a good quality of life for a long time.
As we begin to
forget after a stressful day or
as we age, there is a difference between memory loss due to medical conditions and
memory loss due to normal aging. The distinctions are below.
Symptoms of Medical Conditions:
- Forgetting important details of things you have done in the past few weeks
- Forgetting to do things you said you would do
- Forgetting recent events or conversations
- Retelling a story or joke to the same person because you forgot that you
had already told them
- Difficulty completing complex tasks at work or home (i.e. balancing checkbook,
Symptoms of Normal Aging:
- Forgetting the name of someone you know well
- Forgetting what you were going to say in a conversation
- Forgetting what you were going to do when going into another room
- Difficulty finding things you have just put down
- Recalling a specific word you want to use
Doctors can administer memory tests, such as the MCI Screen offered by
Hoag Executive Health. This test and others are designed to accurately
measure an individual’s memory function. Answers are analyzed via
a computerized scoring method with results provided to your physician
to review with you. These diagnostic tools enable a physician to distinguish
normal aging from subtle memory changes due to other medical causes. The
MCI Screen, for example, is about 97 percent accurate.
If you’re worried about memory loss, the best choice is to visit
with your personal physician and bring along a list of your concerns.
By detecting any signs of mild cognitive impairment of the brain early,
practitioners can help you to find and treat the cause.
Written by James Lindberg, M.D., Hoag Executive Health Chief of Services