Welcome to the Virtual Maui Memory Clinic!
Here you learn of the Top 10 Alzheimer's symptoms and much more.
The symptoms associated with Alzheimer's can also appear with other types of dementia such as the ones shown in the Dementia Pie Chart below.
So don't assume it is Alzheimer's if you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms.
In fact- it might not be dementia at all!
Your memory loss and other symptoms could be due to many factors such as stress, depression,
or hypothyroidism to name a few.
The Dementia Pie
Although Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia- the Dementia Pie Chart includes other related dementias that can also cause memory loss. There are many types of dementia and the Pie Chart above is not all-inclusive- but you get the idea.
Many of these related dementias can also produce signs similar to Alzheimer's- making it difficult to diagnose Alzheimer's from other brain diseases.
Another common type of dementia is vascular dementia. Vascular dementia and Alzheimer's often occur together- and is known as 'mixed dementia'.
Vascular dementia can be a large event such as a stroke, or smaller events that cause brain cell loss over time.
Click here to learn the signs of a stroke.
These brain images compare an
Alzheimer's brain to a normally aged brain-
-and a normal brain to an alcoholic brain.
Notice how both the Azheimer's brain and the alcohol brain appear shriveled (think grape vs. raisen).
Alcohol-related dementia is another type of dementia that causes memory loss.
There are many paths (risk factors) that lead to the road called dementia!
What you consume (junk versus healthy) and how you live your life (bad vs. good habits) plays a major role in your brain health.
The Truth About Senior Moments
Many doctors don't keep up with current knowledge and still repeat old ideas such as- "Senior moments are OK." NOT TRUE!
Senior moments are not part of optimal brain aging!
They represent 'average' brain function in today's society-
That's because so many people are experiencing memory loss at an earlier age.
If you are in your 50-60s and senior moments are part of your life- your brain needs help now!
Senior moments this early in life put you at high risk of having some form of dementia later in life.
Take a look at the following graph:
The yellow line represents optimal healthy brain function that gradually dips down in the late 70s early 80s.
Some brain volume loss is normal at this age- and yes an occasional senior moment at this age is OK.
Only about 5% of the population have healthy optimal brain function.
However- the majority of folks are on the other line- the path that leads to dementia!
If you are on this line- the odds of your being demented later in life are about 50/50. That's a coin toss!
Are you in your 50-60s and already experiencing senior moments?
If so- you are most likely at the subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) point along the brain function continuum below:
The Brain Function Continuum
The Brain Function Continuum will help you understand how close Alzheimer's and related dementias might be in your life.
Are you at SCI or MCI? Not sure?
The number of dementia risk factors that are present in your life play a major role in moving your brain function closer to the dementia end of the continuum.
The higher the risk- the farther down the continuum you are likely to be.
If you are unsure of how much risk you have in your life-
Chapter 7 Your Dementia Risk Profile in my book- will give you an accurate assessment and explanation of the risk factors in your life.
Is it More Than Senior Moments?
Regardless of your age- if you are concerned that your memory loss might be more than senior moments-
A good place to start is with a memory screen. After all- memory loss is #1 on the list of Alzheimer's symptoms.
Keep in mind though- an Alzheimer's diagnosis cannot be made on a simple screen.
There are many screening tools out there- some are better than others.
Here is one I like and it is easy to take.
If you have memory complaints but the screen comes back OK- then most likely you are at the SCI point on the Brain Function Continuum.
If you made more than 3 mistakes on the screen- you need more in-depth testing to determine how you are doing.
It's time to seek out professional help. Ideally- you want a collaborative group of experts in dementia who can fully evaluate your brain function for an accurate diagnosis. In Hawaii- we have assembled such a group of dementia experts, and your primary care physician can refer you to us!
Dr. Thomas Harding Neuropsychologist Neuroscientist, Author & Founder