Memory

We often get so focused on Alzheimer’s disease that we neglect other causes of memory loss and cognitive dysfunction.  Stroke is the second most likely cause of cognitive dysfunction after Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly.  Furthermore, there is a complex interaction between cerebrovascular health and Alzheimer’s disease.  Post-stroke cognitive impairment may affect several domains of cognitive abilities such as attention (tracking the moment), memory (recalling new information and/or details of personal history), language (expressive and/or receptive speech), orientation (for time, place, and/or person), and executive functions (planning. judgment, reasoning, and/or social graces).  The effects of stroke may be temporary (e.g., TIA) or persisting depending on the size of the lesion and timing of treatment.  The effects may be severe (e.g., cause dementia) or mild (e.g., cause mild cognitive impairment) and may affect single skills or multiple skills. There are three […]

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When do you move a person with memory loss from their home to a greater level of care?  This is a very complicated and subjective decision.  Let’s start by assuming the person is living at home with a family member and memory loss is still mild to moderate.  Furthermore, assume they have lived in the same house and neighborhood for at least 5-10 years.  All of their friends and routines are well established and over learned.  In short, there are few surprises and little need to learn much that is new.  Life runs mostly on long-term memory.  The best place to be is at home and in familiar locations with lock-step routines.  Minimum care is needed.   As the memory loss and confusion builds the decision will become more and more the role of the primary caregiver and family. This is […]

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Stress is a pervasive condition that affects our mental and physical functioning.  The term covers both situations that we may call “stressful” such as being told we have cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, caregiving for someone with dementia, or having to give a speech or our reaction to the stressful event such as racing heart, dry mouth, or worry.  Stress can be “negative,” as in being sued, having a car accident, or getting divorced, or “positive,” as in taking a vacation, getting married, or winning the lottery.  Stressors vary in terms of duration, intensity, novelty, and type.  The ranges of stressors includes threat of death, threat of bodily injury, illness, grief, divorce, grief, moving, night shift work, commuting, and noise. The formal study of stress started with the seminal book The Stress of Life by Hans Selye that was published about […]

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The most frequent question I am asked is “What can I do to improve my memory?”  The answer depends upon which type of memory you want to improve.  Practice, repetition, study, modeling, and imitation can all improve long-term memory.  Long-term memory involves reinforcing what is already stored in the brain.  It works like a muscle and strengthens and endures from use. Short-term memory is a different issue.  Short-term memory is the process of storing new information.  It requires learning and is demonstrated by memory or skills that will be demonstrated at some future time.  This memory system does not work like a muscle.  It usually takes time and effort to learn new things.  You remember best those things when you slow down, attend to, think about something.  Hence anything given less than  one minute of thought will fade from your […]

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As we age we need to constantly work toward managing healthy behaviors such as exercising, eating healthy, and being engaged in social/intellectual activities.  These are proven ways to mitigate the effects of aging on health, wellness, mood, and memory.  It is becoming increasingly clear that we need to start this lifestyle  earlier in life to maximize effectiveness. A new study (“Alcohol consumption and cognitive decline in early old age,” Neurology 2014, , in press)  adds our drinking behaviors to the formula of proactive lifestyle.  Drinking too much alcohol from at least middle age onward may accelerate cognitive decline.  The study reports the findings from the Whitehall longitudinal study of 7153 British civil servants 67% of who were male.  The study began in 1985-87 with cognitive tests administered in 1997-8 and administered twice during the next ten years.  Participants were aged […]

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Does taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement help prevent or delay cognitive decline?  In 2012, Mayo Clinic Health Letter (March 2012) reviewed well-conducted research concluding that many vitamins and minerals that we used to think prevented diseases may not help after all.  Furthermore, there are consistent findings that under some circumstances vitamins and supplements may cause harm – even use of a multivitamin in those who are well nourished may slightly increase the risk of premature death. A recent editorial, “Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements,”  in the Annals of Internal Medicine (2013, 59: 851) pushed the issue even further.  The journal published three articles presenting data that indicate no benefits from a multivitamin/mineral supplement in well-nourished adults. A review of primary prevention studies focused on community dwelling adults with no nutritional deficiencies.  There was no clear […]

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Have you ever hunted for your car?  Keys?  Glasses?  Have you ever left home without your grocery list?  Have you ever had a senior moment?  How do you know if it is a sign of future memory loss?  Do you live with or care for someone who is forgetful or has memory loss?  If so, this workshop will help.  Remembering what not to forget is designed for baby boomers, older adults, and caregivers of those with mild to moderate memory loss.  After completing the workshop, you will have practical and ready to use strategies for improving memory and protecting your future. You will learn: How memory works.  The difference between long-term and short-term memory. How memory normally changes as we age. How to tell the difference between normal aging and memory loss.  Stages of change so you can be proactive […]

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I just returned from a speaking engagement in Tampa where I discussed “Treating progressive memory loss.”  The thing to note in the title is that the focus is on treating memory –there’s something you can do – rather than treating a disease – there’s confusion about what to do.  The treatment for Alzheimer’s disease needs to be proactive rather than reactive.  The focus of treatment is to plan for a good life (everyone’s long-term goal regardless of memory) as you age even if your memory declines.  There are two requirements of a good treatment plan.  First, build memory supports before you need them – use the One Minute Rule.  Second, build a life of engagement.  The popular advice is to learn something new or buy a brain fitness program.  Indeed, I recently read a neurologist’s suggested treatment plan for a […]

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Alzheimer’s disease unfolds over the course of decades. It is slow and progressive. Alzheimer’s is a chronic disease that may or may not produce symptoms and the symptoms vary from one person to the next. The good news is that, as with any chronic disease, we can manage and treat all seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease if we focus on memory and engagement in the world. This article focuses on memory rehabilitation before you become demented. The next part will focus on rehabilitation if memory loss becomes severe enough and you meet the criteria for dementia. Normal. The normal stage of memory loss is where we all hope to stay. You are independent. You have senior moments. You are engaged with life and have good initiative. You manage your own short term memory with strategic memory supports. Forgetfulness. Forgetfulness is […]

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Improving your memory is deceptively simple. Don’t forget the “One Minute Rule.” Anything given less than one minute of thought will fade from your memory. We have known this for years but as we get busy we ignore the truth that we knew when we were in school. We took notes at lectures and from reading and we reviewed them often. Notes allow us to think longer (the One Minute Rule) 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. Human […]

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