Archive for July, 2011

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is “What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?” Dementia is a general term that is often misunderstood. Dementia refers to mental deterioration to the point that one can no longer do higher level mental tasks like balancing a checkbook, using a computer, or preparing a meal. In more severe forms of dementia, one may no longer be able to tend to personal needs such as bathing, toileting, or dressing. In other words, dementia refers to mental decline where one can no longer function independently (i.e., needs at least some level of external care). Dementia refers to the severity of the mental deterioration. Dementia is caused by a loss of skills that used to work well (e.g., finding your way around, paying bills, dressing). There are many possible causes of […]

Mild memory loss always presents diagnostic and treatment dilemmas. The actual prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (a major cause of memory loss) changes with age so that it is 1.4% during the late 60s, 2.8% during the early 70s, 5.6% during the late 70s, 11.1% during the early 80s, and jumps to as high as 50% after 85. It is safe to conclude that age trumps all other risk factors if we live past 85. There are many putative risk factors that may cause memory loss and may also slightly raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease: cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, high cholesterol, peripheral artery disease, elevated homocysteine, low folate, diabetes, smoking, midlife obesity, short men, adult onset depression, family history, and head injury. The greater the number of risk factors, the greater the risk. Head injury has received increased attention […]

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Sleep apnea is characterized by reductions or pauses (10 seconds or more) in breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea is more common in men than women before age 50 and the same after age 50. It is more common with obesity (maybe as high as 70%), heart disease (30-50%), and stroke (60%). Estimates suggest that only 10% of those with sleep apnea receive treatment. Untreated sleep apnea is associated with increased accidents at work and while driving. Sleep apnea induces daytime fatigue and sleepiness, headache upon awakening, and insomnia. It also affects mental functions including poor concentration, impaired attention, and poor memory. It contributes to irritability and anxiety. Those with sleep apnea may exibit loud snoring and abrupt awakenings with shortness of breath. If you have this constellation of symptoms, consult your doctor who may order a sleep study to definitively […]

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