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Lawrence of Arabia ( A Great Classic Movie)
Dec 01, 2007 07:40 PM 1752 Views
(Updated Apr 14, 2009 10:48 PM)

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*Health


Recognising early signs of Alzheimer's


by Melissa Healy *


Where are the keys? What did I go into the kitchen for? Should I be worrying about my - you know, that thing, memory? Or is this just what happens to everyone with age?


Here are answers to common questions about memory loss, gleaned from interviews with three experts: neuroscientist James McGaugh of the University of California, Irvine; Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Memory Clinic and the UCLA Center on Aging; and Dr. William H. Thies, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer's Association.


Question: I think I'm losing my mind. I agree to a meeting and then completely forget about it. I'm introduced to someone and five minutes later don't remember his name. Do I have Alzheimer's disease?


Answer: Forgetting things you have learned recently is a red flag for early Alzheimer's disease, our three experts say. "The ability to consolidate and store new memories is the first thing to go, " McGaugh says. "Established memories hang out for a long time."


Alzheimer's sufferers might still have a rich recall of childhood memories, beloved songs and complex activities, such as playing tennis, but not remember the name of a grandchild.


But the significance of such memory lapses depends on how forgetful you always have been and whether you were focused and paying attention when you learned someone's name or set off to get something in the next room. Distraction often causes lapses in people with perfectly intact cognition - mainly because the initial stimulus was incompletely processed.


"You never really learn it if you don't pay attention, " says Small, author of "The Memory Bible" and a new book, "iBrain."


When a person who has always been meticulous about keeping appointments starts missing them, that is a worrisome change. A person who has always been a bit disorganized or easily distracted might have other problems, including attention deficit disorder or chronic depression.


If the memory lapses are consistent with a lifelong pattern, our experts say it's unlikely to be Alzheimer's disease.


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