Could You Have Alzheimer’s?

8 early warning signs to consider

Denial is tempting when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease. Since there is presently no cure for the disease, and medicines that slow its progress offer only a temporary reprieve, it is easy to understand why many people have a “I don’t want to know” attitude. Still, early awareness and detection matter.

Knowing the signs and symptoms can prompt us to contact our family doctor for a referral to a specialist, usually a neurologist, for an evaluation. We may find that changes we are experiencing are normal signs of aging. If cognitive impairment is found, other, more  treatable conditions like depression, medication side effects, or a sleep disorder can be ruled out.

Early awareness and detection matter.

We can also take steps on our own to implement the lifestyle changes that will give us the maximum chance of protecting our brain, such as improved nutrition, increased physical activity, reduced alcohol intake, and continued participation in activities that matter to us, including social contact with friends and loved ones.

Here are some warning signs that need our attention:

  1. Memory loss that interferes with your normal daily life: Everyone has occasional memory slips such as forgetting where you put your keys, but memory losses that persist (such as forgetting your way home) so that it is difficult to manage one’s affairs independently are a cause for concern.
  2. Difficulty in planning and problem solving: The ability to multitask may fade with age, but the loss of ability to organize a task, even given your full attention, is not part of normal aging.
  3. Persistent confusion with time or place: Forgetting what day it is can happen to anyone, but not knowing the year or where you are and how you got there is a sign of a more serious issue.
  4. Trouble understanding spatial relationships or visual images: Visual changes can be due to cataracts or other vision problems, but difficulty navigating familiar places or understanding what you are looking at is problematic.
  5. Trouble with words in speaking and writing: Word finding befuddlement is familiar to most older people, but when it affect one’s ability to join in a conversation or communicate one’s needs to others, that may spell more serious complication.
  6. Difficulty making judgments and decisions: People with Alzheimer’s may display unusual changes in judgment when it comes things like falling victim to scams, or making uncharacteristic decisions about money, relationships or possessions.
  7. Withdrawal from social activities: A person with Alzheimer’s disease may drop out of social events because they are aware of changes in their thinking and feel they cannot keep up, or they may simply lose interest in their usual activities. Disengagement in customary activities can also be a sign of depression, so it is important to check this symptom out with a doctor.
  8. Sharp shifts in personality and behavior:  Brain changes may cause mood swings, loss of inhibitions, changes in sleep patterns, irritability, and aggression. Depression and anxiety may be warning signs of Alzheimer’s, but could also be a cause of symptoms mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease.

When symptoms begin to accumulate, maybe it is better to know what’s going on than to live in fear.

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The list makes it easier to know when it is time for a professional evaluation. Many university medical centers across the country have excellent neurology departments, or even memory or brain centers that have the latest information and technology.

When symptoms begin to accumulate, it’s certainly better to know what’s going on than to live in fear. Fear and anxiety over Alzheimer’s disease can be as painful, troubling, and alienating as the disease itself — worse, it prevents many from getting help. Learning more about the disease, communicating with your doctor, and even talking over concerns with friends and family brings this disease out into the open, taking away it’s power to affect us even when we don’t have it.

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