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Why get screened for memory loss?

Updated: Mar 4, 2020



A lot of people are afraid to see a doctor about memory loss or cognitive changes they are noticing. They may have heard that "there is nothing we can do" for Dementia or Alzheimer's, so they prefer not to know. But ask the experts! There are so many things we can do to help slow down memory loss (see article), or even reverse it (see article). There are several forms of reversible memory loss, and the best way to reverse the changes is to come early (days to months of symptoms) rather than late (such as years), because reversible changes can become permanent if they have been going on for more than just several months. It is best to see a specialist who knows all the reversible causes of memory loss and who can systematically evaluate everyone so that "not a stone is left unturned."


The best news I can give to someone is that what they are noticing is normal. Many symptoms may be distressing to a person, but are in fact normal (see article). We have ways of testing memory to know if it fits within a person's age and educational background, but it often takes a specialist to interpret these results. Quick tests done in primary care, such as the Mini Mental Status Exam, or the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, are just not sensitive enough to detect subtle changes.


Many people have family members with Dementia or Alzheimer's and are worried that they are at high risk for getting it. Sometimes this is true, and sometimes they have just the same risk as everyone else. It depends on an individual's story and their family tree. It is best to ask a specialist, such as a Cognitive Neurologist, because we know which situations and which genes increase, decrease, or don't have any impact on the risk of Dementia.





So, don't be afraid. Cognitive Neurologists and other specialists can help tell you that what you are noticing is normal, tell you about your individual risk for developing cognitive impairment. Many times it is normal or reversible. If there is a diagnosis, we can advise what to do as early as possible. The earlier a person comes in, the more likely their chance of memory loss being reversed.

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