Thursday, April 19 , 2018, 3:21 am | A Few Clouds 48º

Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Rona Barrett: I Can’t Remember What I’m Forgetting

I had a great opening line for this week’s column, but it slipped my mind.

Has this been happening more to you lately, too?

After a good night’s sleep you feel great, except when you speak to your spouse or friend, you find yourself not remembering what you started to talk about — or sometimes even their name.

A friend you know almost better than yourself walks up to your table at a restaurant and you can’t remember their name. You want to introduce the person you’re sitting with but you can’t even remember their name!

Your once photographic memory can’t focus on the subject, nothing develops and you ask, “What just happened?”

You fear you suffer from short-term memory loss. And did I mention you fear you suffer from short-term memory loss?

And then one day you drive yourself batty because you can’t remember three main things: names, dates and … I can’t remember the third thing. You’re convinced you are either losing your mind or you have Alzheimer’s.

So you finally get up the nerve to see your doctor. As you spill out your true confession, she smiles then asks if you want to test your theory.

Most doctors now have two short, simple tests they give patients experiencing memory or cognitive problems. One tests mental dexterity skills. Another tests cognition by asking you to (1) remember, and a few minutes later, repeat the names of three common objects, and (2) draw a face of a clock with all the numbers in order followed by placing the hands at a specified time.

In many cases, these simple, brief appraisals help determine if a more exhaustive examination for Alzheimer’s is needed involving: a physical exam, an MRI or other brain imaging, a family medical history review, and a neurological/mood disorder assessment.

If you or a senior loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association is a treasure trove of information, referrals and support.

What if the results of these preliminary tests are that you do not have Alzheimer’s disease, but still you have symptoms such as trouble focusing, confused thinking or memory problems?

In many cases these tests point to treatable conditions that create these Alzheimer’s-like symptoms: depression, hearing loss, thyroid problems, malnutrition, infections, medication interaction or incorrect dosages, or too much smoking or drinking — all conditions treatable with medication and a healthier lifestyle.

And here’s a new one to me. Another cause of Alzheimer’s-like symptoms: dehydration, which affects the body’s balance of electrolytes (e.g., sodium, potassium). Severe dehydration can cause confusion that looks exactly like Alzheimer’s disease. So, raise a glass and drink up — plenty of water and electrolyte-filled liquids, that is.

A recent report suggests that low levels of testosterone in older men lead to Alzheimer’s disease. We already know that high levels of testosterone in males often result in their brain becoming completely incapacitated — but that’s a subject for another column.

Until then, remember to … keep thinking the good thoughts.

— In honor of her late father, entertainment journalist, author, senior activist and Santa Barbara County resident Rona Barrett is the driving force behind the Golden Inn & Village, the area’s first affordable senior living and care facility, scheduled to begin construction in early 2015. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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