Dr.K.Vasanth MD (Geriatrics) about memory problems in elderly.
I have memory loss!! Do I have Dementia?
This is the question that lingers around in the minds of young senior citizens. By young, I mean the population who have just got retired and entered the 60s. The general idea is that as we grow old we lose our memory and we end up in dementia. It is not entirely correct. Yes, the chances of getting dementia increases as you age, but that does not mean your habit of losing keys around is always related to dementia.
So what exactly is dementia?
Dementia is progressive loss of cognitive functions affecting your daily life and not just memory loss. Cognitive functions include memory, comprehension, reading, writing, speech, abstract thinking, judgement and execution. So to diagnose dementia, we doctors require more than just memory loss.
So in order to find out whether your memory loss is benign as such or more serious disease like dementia, your Doctor use validated cognitive tests to find it out. No amount of blood or imaging investigations can pin point the diagnosis without these validated tests from your Geriatrician/ Elder care Physician.
Is there anything between Dementia and benign forgetfulness?
Yes, the mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Mild cognitive impairment is diagnosed when you have little hard time getting through the cognitive tests but you are otherwise normal. By normal, I mean you are able to move around independently, carrying out your routines, helping others and basically your forgetfulness is not interfering with your way of life.
So will MCI progress to dementia?
Sadly yes. The chances are around 50% progress to dementia in their next 10 years! Quite alarming isn’t it.
Is there a way to stop it?
Though the progress cannot be stopped entirely, it can be significantly slowed by early diagnosis, modifying potential risk factors thereby keeping you independent as far as possible.
Few things to keep up a healthy cognition are being physically fit and active; being stress free; taking healthy diet; getting adequate sleep; learning new skills; being social; and regular physician visits. So go to your Physician and get your COGNITION assessed!-Dr.K.Vasanth is a Consultant Geriatrician and the Medical Director of Geri Care, Chennai.