Archive for April, 2010

Having a better memory is really quite simple. Anything given less than one minute of thought will fade from your memory. We have all known this for years. Consider taking notes at lectures. Notes allow us to think longer about the point we feel is important and they focus our attention. Additionally, taking notes allows us to review the important facts which again give more time to learn and later remember what’s important. In a world filled with massive and multiple sources of information we often ignore the fact that we learn most things well by spending time with the skill or information we want to remember. The more minutes you spend the better the memory. Indeed, Malcolm Galdwell, author of Outliers, points out that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. Think of the multitude of […]

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Behavioral problems like aggression, agitation, and hallucinations are common among those with memory loss and dementia. They are often treated with medications as a class called “antipsychotics” or “neuroleptics.” The newer medications in this class include Risperdal, Zyprexa, Geodon, Seroquel, and Abilify. Examples of older medications in this class of drugs include Thorazine, Haldol, and Melleril and are not widely used today. The newer medications are used in about 90% of prescriptions written. The belief was that these newer (and more expensive) medications are safer and more effective than older medications. However, these assumptions have been challenged by recent research. The overall risk of death from use of these medications is low – about 3%. However these drugs affect heart rhythm and may cause a higher rate of sudden cardiac deaths in vulnerable individuals. This is true for individuals treated […]

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The stress of caregiving takes an enormous toll even when it is a labor of love. It is a job that consumes you if you do not take active steps to get away from the constant demands. Being compassionate and caring does not mean total self-sacrifice. The most effective caregiving is accomplished by balancing the needs of the one you love and your own needs. I often talk with caregivers who are overwhelmed and worn out from their 24 hour/7 day a week job. Caregivers are so invested in the needs of the person with the memory loss that they lose sight of the fact that caregiving demands that you care for yourself as well. This self neglect is driven by either guilt (“I have to do it myself no matter what the cost”) or because by demands on time […]

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Current research suggests a number of “protective factors” that are associated with better mental skills as we age. These factors include higher educational attainment, higher socioeconomic status, social support, better mental abilities to start with (may be the cause of the education socioeconomic status effect), better lung capacity (an index of fitness and lifestyle), taking a multivitamin, and moderate alcohol use. Note that many of these factors are under your control. There is so much you can do. The persons that do best as they age work or volunteer, live with someone, rate their health as good to excellent, exercise moderately to vigorously, and do not smoke. If your short-term memory holds, engagement in the world improves memory, reasoning, and speed of thinking. There are no guarantees. However, if you manage the factors you can control, the quality of your […]

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Although aging does not cause memory loss, advancing age is the greatest risk factor for cognitive impairment. This creates a fear of progressive decline such as that caused by dementing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, we are confronted by many who propose that aging is a disease and the solution lays in “Anti-Aging Medicine.” The notion here is that there are “natural” cures for aging that traditional medicine is hiding from us. The problem is that creative marketing often hides the facts. As recently as 5 years ago there were a number of supplements that were viewed as essential to slow aging and prevent cardiovascular as well as memory decline. Epidemiological studies demonstrated a clear association between consumption of several herbs, vitamins, anti-inflammatory agents, and hormones (e.g., Gingko Biloba, ibuprofen, estrogen replacement therapy, high dose vitamin E, and vitamin B12) […]

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Have you ever lost your train of thought? Stared into space? Experienced daytime sleepiness? Had disorganized or illogical thoughts? Of course, we all have these experiences. There are days when I am not as focused and days where I am very focused and I’m never at my best by 4:00 in the afternoon as I am in the morning. The clinical term for these lapses is fluctuating consciousness. It should come as no surprise that fluctuating consciousness is more pronounced in dementias. It is startling how lucid a person with Alzheimer’s or Lewy body disease can be one minute and how confused the next. Fluctuating confusion is a hallmark diagnostic sign of Lewy body disease as it is characteristic of nearly 90% of those with this form of cognitive decline – even before it progresses to the point of dementia. […]

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