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Alzheimer’s Early and Accurate Diagnosis: Normal Aging vs. Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted Apr 29 2009 12:00am

(Editor’s Note: I recently came across an excellent book and resource, The Alzheimer’s Alzheimer's Disease Action PlanAction Plan: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Diagnosis and Treatment for Memory Problems, just released in paperback. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, one of the authors and leading Alzheimer’s expert, kindly helped us create a 2-part article series to share with SharpBrains readers advice on a very important question, “How can we help the public at large to distinguish Alzheimer’s Disease from normal aging — so that an interest in early identification doesn’t translate into unneeded worries?” What follows is an excerpt from the book, pages 3-8).

As it turns out, Jane did not have Alzheimer’s. She consulted a doctor, who, in docspeak, told her that the passage of time (getting older) had taken a slight toll on her once-superquick memory. She was slowing down a little, and if she relaxed, the name or date or other bit of information she needed would come to her soon enough. She was still good at her job and home life. She had simply joined the ranks of the worried well.

Normal brain aging, beginning as early as the forties in some people, may include:

• Taking longer to learn or remember information
• Having difficulty paying attention or concentrating in the midst of distractions
• Forgetting such basics as an anniversary or the names of friends
• Needing more reminders or memory cues, such as prominent appointment calendars, reminder notes, a phone with a wellstocked speed dial

Although they may need some assistance, older people without a mental disorder retain their ability to do their errands, handle money, find their way to familiar areas, and behave appropriately.

How does this compare to a person with Alzheimer’s? When Alzheimer’s slows the brain’s machinery, people begin to lose their ability to

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