As a youngster, my mother trained me to keep key things (wallet, watch, keys, etc.) in the same place. That way, if I got in a rush, which seemed to be most of the time, I would always be able to find them. I have tried to continue this habit, but as I have gotten older, I seem to be more distracted and find myself leaving things in unexpected places. Happily, my concerns have been assuaged by a geriatrician, who informed the group at a meeting I attended earlier this year that everyone misplaces their wallet, and that could be considered “normal” unless you put it in the freezer. Aging has many side effects, and forgetfulness is one of them. The challenge is figuring out whether our symptoms are typical, and which ones need to be referred to a health care professional.
I recently attended an excellent presentation sponsored by UTMB Health and the Alzheimer’s Association. The opening presentation was a comparison of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Many of us have heard the comparison that all Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia, but not all dementias are Alzheimer’s Disease. All dementias involve memory loss and cognitive problems that can cause a decline in social functioning, and Alzheimer’s Disease accounts for more than half of those diagnosed with dementia. The other kinds of dementia include vascular dementia, caused by circulatory issues in the brain; Lewy Body dementia, resulting from protein deposits in the brain; frontotemporal dementia, a more rare disorder affecting the fronts and sides of the brain; and mixed forms of Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease has received the bulk of attention in the fight against dementia due to the number of lives affected, including caregivers.
The seminar piqued my curiosity – I did a paper on Alzheimer’s while working on my doctorate, so I wanted to look at the progress. Until recently, the research emphasis has been on slowing the progress of the disease. However, recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance encouraging researchers to concentrate on earlier stages of the disease progression, including patients with minimal symptoms. In addition, a group of researchers from prestigious institutions in the United Kingdom and U.S. have analyzed a large group of data, concluding that about one-third of Alzheimer’s cases can be attributed to seven manageable risk factors, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, physical inactivity, depression, smoking, and low educational attainment. With the identification of these factors, expect to see lifestyles as an enhanced target for prevention.
If you are wondering if a recent bout of forgetfulness is serious, see your doctor. If you already know someone who is dealing with one of the forms of dementia, here is the shameless plug: get connected with the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org/texas or 1-800-272-3900). They offer a wealth of resources, including educational seminars, caregiver resources, peer-to-peer outreach and programs for those in early stages of the disease, and caregiver support.
 FDA Consumer Health Information: FDA Facilitates Research on Earlier Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Medical Letter on the CDC & FDA, 2 Oct. 2016, p. 3. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm519875.htm. Retrieved Nov. 8, 2016.
 Norton, Sam, Fiona E. Matthews, Deborah E. Barnes, Kristine Yoffe, and Carol Brayne, “Potential for Primary Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease: An Analysis of Population-Based Data.” Lancet Neurology, Vol. 13, August 2014, pp. 788-794.