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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Alzheimer's disease is More than Memory Loss January 23, 2014

Earlier this week a Southwest Airlines plane landed at the wrong airport in Missouri.John Benson posted this article in VOXXI which is so important I am reprinting it here.

"In terms of uh-ohs, we’ve all been there. However, this is probably one of the more high-profile “oops” events in recent time. It turns out the pilots simply confused runways from 10,000 feet in the air. Still, this got VOXXI thinking about a more serious affair – Alzheimer’s disease.

When is a faux pas simply, well, a faux pas? And when is a lapse in memory a sign of something more? VOXXI talked to Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Director Dr. Jim Leverenz about the distinction.

“Unfortunately by the age of 35, we start to see what we will call a normal age-related decline in retrieval of information,” Leverenz said. “I think most of us have that experience of having trouble coming up with a word or seeing somebody on the street we’ve known for years and trying to pull that name up.”

When having such a senior moment, Leverenz said there are two different components involved. If it’s a retrieval of information issue that results in the person remembering later, that’s not something he worries about. In fact, he suggests a patient worried about their memory loss is basically a good thing. In a nutshell, as a person ages they have more information stored and thus it may take longer to access the word or name for which they’re searching.

It’s the other component that is troublesome and could be an issue to something larger.

“What I worry more about is if somebody comes in and says, ‘I don’t know why I’m here, my wife brought me here,’” Leverenz said. “Then the wife says, ‘He’s having memory issues.’ So that loss of insight often implies a more serious condition.”

One issue with Alzheimer’s disease is patients maintaining new memories. This is why early stages of the condition may be hard to recognize because they’re able to remember older memories, thus no red flags.

“When I’m listening to a history from a patient and their family, I want to hear again that they’re struggling with putting new information in,” Leverenz said. “They do lose their keys but we all do that. One of those nuances is the patient will say somebody must have moved them. Whereas when I lose my keys, I didn’t put them in the right place. So I have that insight that this is my problem."

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