Is It Alzheimer's or Normal Aging?

Friday, 22 Feb 2013 03:56 PM

By Sylvia Booth Hubbard

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You've misplaced your cellphone — again. And last month when you went  to the mall, you forgot where you parked your car. Are you having a couple of "senior moments," or do you have a symptom of something more serious? Could forgetting be a sign you're developing Alzheimer's?
 
Everyone forgets occasionally, say experts, and episodes usually increase with age. "As time goes on, short-term memory declines," says neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, author of "The Alzheimer's Diet."

"While it's common for people as they age to occasionally forget things, like names, and even misplace objects, usually they are able to remember the names later, as well as find the missing objects," Dr. Isaacson said.
 
With normal aging, for example, you'll might forget where you parked at the mall. But with Alzheimer's, you may not remember how you got to the mall.
 
Check out some common memory problems and see how normal aging differs from Alzheimer's:
 
• You can't remember names as well as you used to. If you can't remember the name of a casual acquaintance, it's a sign of normal aging. However, if you forget the name of a grandchild or other close family members, you may be developing Alzheimer's.
 
SPECIAL: Improving Memory Can Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

• You misplace items. An occasional misplaced object can usually be blamed on a hectic lifestyle and too many distractions, but putting common objects in obviously inappropriate places, such as a carton of milk in the laundry basket, should be a cause for alarm.
 
• You have to think to do something you did easily in the past. If you take longer to figure out how to program your cellphone, you may just be tired or stressed. But if you forget how to use a simple object such as a toaster or blender, you may be in trouble.
 
• Taking the wrong turn. If you take the wrong turn off the interstate, you were probably woolgathering and not paying attention. But if you get lost in an area you've been living in for years, it's more than normal aging.
 
• Your concentration isn't as good, and you don't learn as quickly. Concentration often diminishes with aging, and it's normal to learn more slowly. But not being able to concentrate or learn at all are warning signs of Alzheimer's.
 
• You forget to pay a bill. Everyone forgets to pay a bill every now and then. But it's a cause for concern if you regularly receive notices of unpaid bills and can't balance your checkbook any longer.
 
• You have trouble finding the right word. If you sometimes have trouble finding the right words to express yourself, that's probably normal. But stopping talking in the middle of a conversation — and not realizing a conversation was taking place — or repeating yourself over and over, are warning signs. 
 
• You forget experiences. If you forgot part of an experience you had on vacation, that's normal. But forgetting you took the vacation a definite warning sign that something serious is amiss.
 
There are many reasons for memory lapses that aren't linked with either aging or Alzheimer's, including reactions to medications and nutritional deficiencies. If you're concerned, see your doctor.

SPECIAL: Improving Memory Can Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

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