Early Intervention Is Best for Memory Loss: Many causes of memory loss and dementia are known and can be evaluated and treated.
Our brains are an integral part of who we are, so when we begin to forget things, we usually become frustrated and then panic. “What if this is the beginning of Alzheimer’s?” we think.
Usually it isn’t—it’s just a typical age- or hormone-related decline in cognitive function. But if the decline is noticeable enough to affect our social lives, that’s a red flag, says Lisa Feiner, co-founder of Sharp Again Naturally, a Westchester-based nonprofit that educates the public and medical community about the causes, prevention and treatment of memory loss and dementia.
The first stage of memory loss is called subjective cognitive impairment, when we feel something isn’t quite right, Feiner says. Age-related memory loss often begins in our 30s and 40s, when “processing speed” begins to slow. Menopausal women typically experience hormone-related fogginess and memory lapses, which diminish over time with other menopausal symptoms.
“However, when we know our memory truly has declined and we begin to socialize less because of it, it’s time to seek help,” she says.
Years ago, it made sense to keep quiet about memory problems, Feiner notes. Nothing could be done to help a deteriorating brain, and the desire was to live as normal a life as possible for as long as possible.
“We covered up our lapses, and friends and spouses played along, providing support,” she says. “But this is no longer the best course of action. Many causes of memory loss and dementia are known and can be evaluated and treated. Research shows that people with mild cognitive impairment who get treated have the best chance of fully restoring their brain function.”
According to Feiner, several factors can play a role in cognitive impairment, including a sugar-laden diet, a sedentary lifestyle, untreated sleep and trauma issues, and infections and toxins that cause inflammation.
“If you are noticing a change in your brain function, get help,” she says. “Early intervention is the best treatment.”