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Identifying Dementia

As you age, it may take you a little longer to remember a person’s name or follow a complex cooking recipe. But when this slower processing begins to interfere with your daily life, it is time to consider screening for dementia.

“Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia,” says Andrew Godbey, MD, MPH, neurologist at Saint Francis Medical Center. “People with Alzheimer’s have trouble paying bills, they get lost and they have difficulty finding their car in a parking lot. They have a hard time expressing themselves with more complex ideas.”

If you are concerned you may be experiencing more than just occasional memory loss, ask your primary care physician for a dementia screening. He or she may refer you to a neurologist, who will order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test.

Two of the best ways to lower your risk for dementia are to keep your body healthy and your mind active.

Andrew Godbey, MD, MSPH
Andrew Godbey, MD, MSPH

“Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all major risk factors for memory loss,” says Andrew Godbey, MD, MPH, neurologist at Saint Francis Medical Center. “When you exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and stick to a diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, you lower your risk.”

Keep your mind active by playing games, working on crossword puzzles and interacting with others. “If you do not use it, you lose it,” says Godbey. “Have stimulating conversations with others on a regular basis, rather than stay in your house by yourself all day. If you exercise your brain, you will be able to develop coping mechanisms even if you do eventually suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.”

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