You've misplaced your car keys—again. Or you can't remember a word you've used many times, yet it's right there on the tip of your tongue. The older you get, the more likely you're apt to wonder: Are memory slips like this early signs of Alzheimer's disease?
The first thing to know is that mild forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. The concern is when memory problems become serious—you can't retrace your steps and find those car keys, for instance. Or you don't eventually come up with the right word.
Alzheimer's is a disorder of the brain that affects memory, thinking and reasoning. It gets worse over time. Most people display their first signs and symptoms when they're in their mid-60s. Those signs and symptoms can include:
• Getting lost in familiar places.
• Having trouble paying bills or managing money.
• Misplacing things in odd places. For example, putting mail in the freezer.
• Repeating questions.
• Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks.
• Losing track of the day or year.
• Having trouble following a conversation or recognizing familiar people.
• Having difficulties carrying out multistep tasks, such as getting dressed.
• Engaging in impulsive behavior, such as undressing at inappropriate times or places or using vulgar language.
If you or a loved one has memory problems, or you're concerned about changes in memory and behavior, your first step is to talk to your doctor. It's important to know that these signs and symptoms may be caused by problems other than Alzheimer's, and the right care could improve or reverse them.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's, but there are medications that might delay progression of the disease. Acting quickly is to your advantage.
For more information on Alzheimer's disease and to schedule an appointment with a member of our Neurology team, click here.
Sources: Alzheimer's Association; National Institute on Aging