If your parent is beginning to display some memory problems, and over time most of us will, it’s important to determine if this is only mild cognitive aging or the beginning of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
Why is this important? Because a person with mild cognitive impairment can continue to function somewhat normally. She may not be able to remember names or words as readily, but this is not a progressive ailment that indicates radical lifestyle changes are needed, it’s just part of the aging process. Do you know how to tell the difference?
Alzheimer’s disease is not a natural part of aging. It is a disease, a form of dementia that affects at least two of the four domains of cognitive function:
- Memory, 90% of the time this domain — most often, short-term memory — is impacted
- The ability to do complex motor tasks
- The ability to reason and plan abstractly
Over a three-to-five year period, if your parent is struggling with only mild cognitive impairment, there is about a 50% chance she will remain at about the same level or perhaps improve slightly with diet and other lifestyle changes. That means there is also about a 50% chance she will continue to decline as Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia progresses. For a very small percentage of people (5-10%) whose dementia has been caused by such things as vitamin B12 deficiency, overmedication, depression or a thyroid disorder, dementia may be reversible.
- Exercise and stay physically active
- Keep socially and intellectually active
- Eat a healthy diet
- Take DHA omega-3 fatty acids
- Manage conditions like diabetes, hypertension or other medical risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease
- But carefully monitor medications, especially those taking multiple medications, for those that may cause confusion and memory problems
- Don't smoke
- Get enough sleep