Approximately 40% of adults will experience some form of transient memory loss after the age of 65. Simple forgetfulness like misplacing your keys can be a normal sign of aging. However, serious memory loss that impacts your daily life, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, is not brought on by aging, but usually by modifiable lifestyle factors. That’s why it is critical to spot any remarkable changes as soon as possible, in order to seek help to halt the progression.
According to MarketWatch, 6.2 million Americans over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s disease, which is 11% of the older U.S. population. One in three seniors dies while suffering from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, dementia is a general term for memory loss, difficulty problem-solving, and diminished cognitive skills that interfere with daily life. It is not a single disease but rather an umbrella term that encompasses a number of medical conditions. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for between 60% to 80% of dementia cases in the U.S. Vascular dementia, characterized by bleeding and blocked blood vessels in the brain, is the second leading cause. Other, reversible conditions such as thyroid issues and vitamin deficiencies, can also trigger dementia symptoms.
It pays to be on the alert because early detection means early intervention which can help delay the progress of dementia. Even noted expert Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” said he overlooked some of the signs of dementia in his own mother.
“When my mom started giving some of her belongings away to people she barely knew, I thought she was just trying to lighten her load after my father’s passing,” he said. It was only after his mother grew irrational, that Dr. Oz realized something was wrong. A doctor confirmed an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
While there is a slight genetic link to Alzheimer’s, Monica Moreno of the Alzheimer’s Association says that fewer than 1% of individuals with a genetic predisposition get the disease. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, chronic disease, alcohol, certain prescription medications, lack of sleep and depression could contribute to memory problems in seniors.
Moreno says that while Alzheimer’s disease affects each person differently, there are 10 early warning signs to look for, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
One of the most common signs, according to MarketWatch, is the sudden inability to do routine things.
“We had an adviser who was a renowned chef, a James Beard Award winner, and one morning she woke up and forgot how to make an omelet,” Moreno recalls. “It’s those things you do every day and have done all your life that all of a sudden become really difficult to carry out.”
Moreno emphasizes that what constitutes harmless forgetfulness in one person, may signal danger for another.
The Mayo Clinic says that exercise can help reduce your risk of getting dementia or Alzheimer’s disease: “Studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”
According to MarketWatch, people who are socially active are 26% less apt to develop dementia than those who do not have a large network of friends and family. The National Institutes of Aging recommends following a Mediterranean diet to lower your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
And experts say that while healthy living can help stave off serious memory loss, see a physician if you or a loved one experiences a worrisome change in daily routines.
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