Monthly Archives: April 2009

Is it Alzheimer’s or just normal aging?

I am frequently asked what the difference is between memory changes associated with normal aging and that related to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). First, the memory changes associated with normal aging are not a disease. The typical pattern of memory change with advanced age is a deficit in retrieval. A healthy older brain can encode information because the hippocampus is relatively healthy. This permits new information to be encoded. The older adult has some difficulty retrieving that new information, but with cues and prompts they retrieve the information as well as those in their thirties.

In contrast, a brain with AD has a damaged hippocampus that prevents new information from being encoded. This means that new learning does not take place and that cures and prompts do not help because the information is not there to be prompted.

In general, a healthy older adult encodes new information, but needs some help in retrieving what has been encoded. A brain with AD does not encode new information and therefore cues and prompts will not help with retrieval.

Fore more information about Alzheimer’s Disease

I keep forgetting names!

It is very common to be introduced to a new person, to hear their name, and to rapidly forget the person’s name. The question is why?

Is this experience a reflection of you having a poor memory? It actually might represent an attention problem. When we meet new people for the first time there is a tremendous amount of information being processed, outside factors that may be distracting, and each person is generally concerned about him or herself.

Word finding difficulty or the inability to derive a name that was just presented to you is not a sign of disease, but a probable indication that you can benefit from specific tips to remember the names.

As an example, when someone introduces himself or herself to you recite the name aloud and repeat it in every sentence you communicate to the person. This will facilitate a deeper encoding of the name initially which helps to store the information more permanently.

To learn more about Brain Health

Diabetes and Dementia

A recent study in Journal of the American Medical Association provides further support for a relationship between the risk factors of type II diabetes and dementia. This particular study focused on episodes of hypoglycemia and its influence on risk for dementia.

With diabetes there exist a number of health related factors such as obesity, imbalance of glucose, high blood pressure, stroke, abnormal cerebrovascular flow, and heart and other major system dysfunction. Either these factors combined or with a focus on glucose stabilization which can adversely affect the function of neurons, there appears to be a critical risk enhancement to development of dementia in later life.

The important point here is that diabetes with all of its risk factors are cumulative and have a proactive and lifelong effect. This underscores the need for a proactive and lifelong healthy lifestyle, including that for the brain. Nutrition and physical activity are two primary lifestyle behaviors critical for combating type II diabetes.

Eating brain healthy foods and remaining physically active to enhance blood flow to the brain are both necessary and fundamental to a healthy lifestyle and to combating the risk for type II diabetes.

I Cannot Sleep!

For nearly 30 million Americans and many more around the globe sleep disorder is an unfortunate reality. Everyone needs to get enough sleep to feel rested and energetic throughout the day. For most this means at least six hours a night and at least 8 or more for teenagers and children.

Sleep is a very important behavior that is supersensitive to many things that can disrupt it. Pain, rumination, anxiety, mood disorder, new surrounding, uncomfortable temperature, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and medication side effects can all disrupt a normal night sleep. Sleep disorders can also lead to depression, cognitive processing deficits and even more serious problems such as narcolepsy (sudden sleep) that can result in motor vehicle accidents.

Sleep disorders can be confronted and treated with the following approach:

1. Identify that you have a sleep disorder, particularly if you notice your sleep pattern has changed, you are exhausted throughout the day, or you are dozing off at inappropriate times during the day.

2. Get a sleep assessment done to rule out physiological causes the potential disorder.

3. If pain is the cause of the sleep disorder, consult with your M.D. to obtain a more effective means of coping with the pain.

4. For those who are anxious or ruminate while in the bed consider the following steps:

  • Set a strict time to go to bed and a strict time to arise.
  • Do not nap during the day and exercise daily.
  • No caffeine after lunch.
  • Refrain from T.V., reading, or other cognitive activity in bed.
  • Set the temperature in the room to cool.
  • Try to fall asleep within 20 minutes of lying down.

If you do not fall asleep, get out of the bed and sit in a designated “worry chair” where you permit your brain to ruminate.

Once you believe you have ruminated enough try to return to the bed and fall asleep within 20 minutes. Repeat the same process if you do not fall asleep.

It is also a good idea to write down what you are thinking so you can view your anxiety rather than simply feeling it.

5. Drink a warm glass of milk prior to going to sleep.

6. Use white noise if it helps.

7. Eat healthier and lose some weight within reason.

8. Consult with your M.D. to assess the need for medication as a last resort.

Good Night.