By Dr. Alia Tuqan
September is “World Alzheimer’s Month” and Sept. 21 is “World Alzheimer’s Day” to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This year marks the start of the “silver tsunami,” when the first of the baby-boomer generation turns age 65.
Often, as a person grows older, he or she may notice that his or her memory is not as sharp. What changes in memory are considered a normal part of aging and what are not? Here is some helpful information about memory and dementia.
Dementia is the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities that significantly interferes with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and well-know type of dementia, but there are other forms as well with long and complicated names.
People with Alzheimer’s disease have short-term memory problems. They may forget recent conversations or get lost in familiar places. Later on, they have long-term memory problems, such as forgetting loved ones’ names and important past events. Sometimes, people with Alzheimer’s disease have personality changes and become confused easily.
If you or a loved one has memory problems or behavioral changes, make a doctor’s visit. Your doctor may conduct tests to determine the cause. Sometimes thyroid disease and vitamin B-12 deficiency, both of which are easily treatable, can cause symptoms similar to those seen with dementia.
Once dementia has been diagnosed, there are steps that can be taken. While there is no cure, there are medications to slow the rate of memory loss and treat behavioral changes.
Living with dementia or caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging. Many communities have patient and caregiver support groups. Ask your doctor or check with the Alzheimer’s Association in your community or on the web at www.alz.org for more information.
Dementia is NOT a normal part of aging! Here is what you can do to protect your memory and prevent dementia:
1) Manage your blood pressure. Our doctor may recommend a low-salt diet or blood pressure medications to keep it within acceptable ranges.
2) Know your cholesterol level and talk with your doctor about dietary changes and medication to lower it.
3) Stop smoking and using tobacco products. Your doctor can help with effective approaches.
4) Eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins. Drink alcohol in moderation.
5) Keep active, both physically and mentally. Regular exercise for 30 to 45 minutes per day, three to five times a week, can help your body and mind. Consider taking walks in your neighborhood or visiting your local gym. But consult with your doctor before starting any exercise routine. Regular mental exercise can help, too. Try doing crossword puzzles or volunteering in your community. An active mind is a healthy mind!
Follow these simple steps for a better memory – and a healthier life!
Dr. Alia Tuqan is a board-certified geriatrician with the highly-ranked UCLA Geriatrics Program in Santa Monica and Westwood. For more information, call 310. 319.4371.
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