Memory Loss Does Not Mean Dementia or Alzheimer’s Are in Your Future
In the summer of 1994, I lived in Woodridge, Illinois, about 25 miles west of Chicago.
One day, there was a message on my answering machine. It was from a woman who lived next door to my mother in Pennsylvania. The neighbor said my mother was in the hospital and her doctor wanted me to call him.
I called immediately. Her doctor told me my mom had some small strokes on blood vessels in her brain. She was a little confused and they had to hospitalize her. He didn’t think she would be able to live by herself any more.
That Was How I First Learned My Mother Had Dementia
Thinking about it afterwards, her dementia probably started one or two years earlier. It didn’t reach the point to where it became noticeable until 1994.
My mother was 78 years old at the time. As time passed, her dementia got worse. Eventually she reached the point where she did not recognize or know me. The quality of her life diminished. She died 13 years later when she was 91.
Would I Develop Dementia When I Got Older?
Ever since then, I have wondered if I would develop dementia myself. Initially, I didn’t think about it much but as I got older, it became more frequent.
Occasionally, I had difficulty remembering a person’s name or being able to find my cell phone. On rare occasions, I forgot to pay a bill. Throughout my life, I always had a very good memory. Whenever any of these things happened, they rocked me.
I have since found out I was not alone. It is common for many, as we age, to worry about developing Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Some are like me who have a family member who had it. Others have a friend or know someone with it. They saw what happened to these people and wondered if the same would happen to them.
My mother’s case and the problems with my memory led me to study quite a bit about Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s. I have learned as we grow older, it is natural for many to experience some degree of memory loss.
It’s common not to be able to find our car keys or glasses. At times we temporarily may not recall someone’s name. We may even forget to pay a bill. However, these do not mean we are going to develop Dementia or Alzheimer’s later.
For me personally, I look at it this way. Throughout my life, I have had many different experiences. All of the brain cells I have are filled with memories of those. No braincells are left where I can store new memories. That’s why I can’t recall a person’s name or find my keys.
Of course, I am kidding when I say that.
Various Things Cause Memory Loss
I have learned various things can cause lapses in our memory. Here are some:
- Anxiety and depression
- Thyroid problems
- Lack of quality sleep
- Side effects of medicines we take
- Alcohol, tobacco or drug use
I realized when I couldn’t recall a person’s name, I panicked. That caused a block. Because of that panic, it took me longer to recall the person’s name. That may have been an hour or two. Sometimes, it wasn’t until the next day.
I was not experiencing memory loss. It was a block which came from the fear over what might be happening to me.
Is There Anything You Can Do to Your Memory from Deteriorating?
Here are some. (Some of these may surprise you.)
- Keep socially active. Don’t isolate yourself from other people. Regularly talk to and go out with family members and friends.
- If there is stress in your life, take steps to reduce it. If you are anxious or depressed, get help with it. Seeing a therapist may be worthwhile.
- Make sure to get enough sleep daily.
- Watch what you eat.
- Get in the habit of exercising regularly
- Exercise your brain regularly. Play chess or bridge with others. You may enjoy Scrabble. Do crossword puzzles and Sudoku. You can also find free brain games online
Many of us look for that miracle cure – that medicine or supplement we could take to keep our memory as sharp as it was when we were younger.
You may say this is you. I know have looked for this cure myself. You may have seen supplements advertised that are supposed to do this. A common one is Prevagen. The company that manufactures this supplement says it supports healthy brain function, a sharper mind and clearer thinking. It also improves memory.
The Federal Trade Commission and a Class Action Law Suit
Harvard Health Publishing printed an article by Dr. Robert Shmerling, its Senior Faculty Editor, on May 31 of 2019 and updated it three months later on August 16. In the article, Dr. Shmerling said:
“The US Federal Trade Commission wasn’t convinced of the supplement’s benefits. It charged the supplement maker with false advertising back in 2012. In the legal filings, the company was accused of selectively reporting data and misleading the public though claims that Prevagen is “clinically proven” to improve cognitive function. The lawsuit has not yet been decided.”
In 2020, a class action law suit was settled against Quincy Bioscience, the manufacturer of Prevagen. In that law suit,
“Consumers of the supplement, Prevagen, said that Quincy Bioscience, the supplement maker, was deceptive in its advertisements claiming that the brain health supplement improved memory and “supported brain function, [a] sharper mind, and clearer thinking.”
If the settlement is approved by the Judge, Quincy Bioscience will have to provide people who purchased Prevagen partial refunds and change their advertising.
Other supplements are advertised. One is Focus Factor. The manufacturer is Factor Nutrition Labs. On the website, www.focusfactor.com, it states this supplement improves memory, concentration, and focus. It also indicates a clinical study where adults who took Focus Factor for 6 weeks experienced a 44% increase in memory recall. That was from 4.5 words to 6.5 words.
On closer examination, that clinical study was conducted in 2011. In it, some people took Focus Factor while others were given a placebo. 6 weeks later their memory recall was tested. Each was given the same set of words and asked to recall them after a period of time.
The group that took Focus Factor recalled an average of 6.5 words.
The group that received the placebo only recalled 4.5 words.
When you divide 6.5 by 4.5, the difference is 44%.
The group taking Focus Factor only could recall 2 more words than the group which got the placebo. That is not a significant difference.
It seems a little odd that no additional studies have been done to support the claims about the benefits of taking Focus Factor.
If you think you are becoming forgetful, don’t automatically jump to the conclusion you may have Dementia or Alzheimer’s. That will cause your anxiety to increase and may make your forgetfulness seem worse.
It may just be that you are getting older.
If you want to try to prevent your memory from deteriorating, do some of those things I mentioned earlier. Before you start taking any supplements which are being promoted as memory boosters, do your own research to see if they will work or if their claims may be overstated.
You will save money by not purchasing something that does not work.
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