Noticing Memory Problems? What to Do Next

 

We’ve all forgotten a name, where we put our keys, or if we locked the front door. It’s normal to forget things once in a while. But serious memory problems make it hard to do everyday things. Forgetting how to make change, use the telephone, or find your way home may be signs of a more serious memory problem.

For some older people, memory problems are a sign of mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, or a related dementia. People who are worried about memory problems should see a doctor. Signs that it might be time to talk to a doctor include:

  • Asking the same questions over and over again
  • Getting lost in places a person knows well
  • Not being able to follow directions
  • Becoming more confused about time, people, and places
  • Not taking care of oneself—eating poorly, not bathing, or being unsafe

People with memory complaints should make a follow-up appointment to check their memory after 6 months to a year. They can ask a family member, friend, or the doctor’s office to remind them if they’re worried they’ll forget.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from MedlinePlus.

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Warning Signs of Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest is frightening. But it’s a little less scary if you know that it’s really not that sudden. A new study found that about half of cardiac arrest patients had telltale warning signs for a month beforehand. But most people ignored them. Here are four signs that could signal sudden cardiac arrest and why you shouldn’t ignore them.

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Kung Fu Ballet Workout

Combine martial arts and ballet moves for a great full body workout. Here’s how.

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Cognitive Health and Older Adults

 

Cognitive health—the ability to clearly think, learn, and remember—is an important component of brain health. Others include:Indian and Asian women laughing

  • Motor function—how well you make and control movements
  • Emotional function—how well you interpret and respond to emotions
  • Sensory function—how well you feel and respond to sensations of touch, including pressure, pain, and temperature

This guide focuses on cognitive health and what you can do to help maintain it. The following steps can help you function every day and stay independent—and they have been linked to cognitive health, too.

Take Care of Your Health

Taking care of your physical health may help your cognitive health. You can:

Eat Healthy Foods

A healthy diet can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes. It may also help keep your brain healthy.

In general, a healthy diet consists of fruits and vegetables; whole grains; lean meats, fish, and poultry; and low-fat or non-fat dairy products. You should also limit solid fats, sugar, and salt. Be sure to control portion sizes and drink enough water and other fluids.

Researchers are looking at whether a healthy diet can help preserve cognitive function or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. For example, there is some evidence that people who eat a “Mediterranean diet” have a lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.

Researchers have developed and are testing another diet, called MIND, a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. One study suggests that MIND may affect the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Get more information about healthy eating for older adults.

Be Physically Active

Being physically active—through regular exercise, household chores, or other activities—has many benefits. It can help you:

  • Keep and improve your strength
  • Have more energy
  • Improve your balance
  • Prevent or delay heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases
  • Perk up your mood and reduce depression

Studies link ongoing physical activity with benefits for the brain, too. In one study, exercise stimulated the human brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are vital to cognitive health. Other studies have shown that exercise increased the size of a brain structure important to memory and learning, improving spatial memory.

Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is thought to be more beneficial to cognitive health than non-aerobic stretching and toning exercise. Studies are ongoing.

Federal guidelines recommend that all adults get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Aim to move about 30 minutes on most days. Walking is a good start. You can also join programs that teach you to move safely and prevent falls, which can lead to brain and other injuries. Check with your healthcare provider if you haven’t been active and want to start a vigorous exercise program.

For more information, see Go4Life®, NIA’s exercise and physical activity campaign for older adults.

Keep Your Mind Active

Being intellectually engaged may benefit the brain. People who engage in meaningful activities, like volunteering or hobbies, say they feel happier and healthier. Learning new skills may improve your thinking ability, too. For example, one study found that older adults who learned quilting or digital photography had more memory improvement than those who only socialized or did less cognitively demanding activities.

Lots of activities can keep your mind active. For example, read books and magazines. Play games. Take or teach a class. Learn a new skill or hobby. Work or volunteer. These types of mentally stimulating activities have not been proven to prevent serious cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease, but they can be fun!

Scientists think that such activities may protect the brain by establishing “cognitive reserve.” They may help the brain become more adaptable in some mental functions, so it can compensate for age–related brain changes and health conditions that affect the brain.

Formal cognitive training also seems to have benefits. In the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) trial, healthy adults 65 and older participated in 10 sessions of memory training, reasoning training, or processing–speed training. The sessions improved participants’ mental skills in the area in which they were trained. Most of these improvements persisted 10 years after the training was completed.

Be wary of claims that playing certain computer and online games can improve your memory and other types of thinking. Evidence to back up such claims is evolving. NIA and others are supporting research to determine if different types of cognitive training have lasting effects.

For more information, see Participating in Activities You Enjoy.

Stay Connected

Connecting with other people through social activities and community programs can keep your brain active and help you feel less isolated and more engaged with the world around you. Participating in social activities may lower the risk for some health problems and improve well-being.

So, visit with family and friends. Join programs through your Area Agency on Aging, senior center, or other community organizations.

We don’t know for sure yet if any of these actions can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease and age–related cognitive decline. But some of them have been associated with reduced risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.

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Improving Outcomes for Patients with NF1- Medical News

When 9-year-old Philip Moss ran out of treatment options for his neurofibroma tumors in April 2015, his doctors directed his family to NCI. NCI was leading the only treatment trial in the nation for children with tumors caused by neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a genetic disorder in which painful and often disfiguring tumors of the nerves can grow on or under the skin. These tumors are generally benign, but about 10% of people with NF1 will develop a cancerous neurofibroma. There are currently no Food and Drug Administration-approved therapies for NF1.

Philip’s experience with NF1 began when he was 6 years old, with the detection, diagnosis, and removal of a tumor on his neck. “We’d never heard of NF1 before; our world changed,” said Renie Moss, Philip’s mother. Unfortunately, the tumor regrew over the next few years. After additional surgery, routine imaging scans revealed that the tumor was growing again, and, over a 6-month period, it grew from the size of a ping pong ball to the size of a tennis ball. In addition, other tumors had developed. The tumor on his neck was particularly concerning because it could obstruct his airway or cause other complications. “We felt like we were one step away from disaster,” recalled Renie.

Philip’s doctor referred them to a phase I clinical trial at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, that was testing an experimental targeted therapy called selumetinib. The trial was led by Brigitte Widemann, M.D., chief of NCI’s Pediatric Oncology Branch, and involved collaborators from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and the Children’s National Health System.

Laboratory researchers had previously shown that mutations in the NF1 gene cause neurofibromas to grow through a chemical pathway inside cells called the RAS pathway. Selumetinib blocks a specific node in this pathway called MEK. In mouse models of NF1, MEK inhibitors reduced the growth of neurofibroma tumors. Other MEK inhibitors are safe and effective in other types of adult cancers. Based on these findings, researchers hypothesized that selumetinib might work in NF1 tumors in children.

In September 2015, Philip visited NCI for an intense medical evaluation, joined the trial, and began taking selumetinib twice a day. Because the drug is provided in pill form, Philip was able to return home for ongoing treatment and was monitored by his local pediatrician. He and his family learned to cope with the initial side effects of treatment, which included fatigue, headaches, and nausea. One year after joining the trial, Philip’s tumors were 36% smaller.

Although this trial was a small early-phase study, Philip was among the 71% of children whose tumor volumes decreased by more than 20%. “We saw tumor shrinkage in nearly every patient,” Brigitte remarked. “The shrinkage was measurable…something we had never seen before” among NF1 patients. These promising results are now being pursued in a phase II study.

Philip remains in the trial, and the tumor on his neck has shrunk by half. “Kids don’t ask what’s wrong with him anymore,” said Renie. “It’s meant the world to him and to our family.” Renie acknowledged the years of research that led to this trial. “Someone was planting the seeds in NF1 research so we would benefit from that work now.”

This content is provided by the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)
Syndicated Content Details:
Source URL: https://www.cancer.gov/publishedcontent/syndication/1124707.htm
Source Agency: National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Captured Date: 2018-09-24 12:10:14.0

How to Prevent a Urinary Tract Infection

UTI might be a woman’s least favorite acronym. Half of all women will get one… and it could be getting worse. Doctors are finding it harder and harder to treat urinary tract infections with antibiotics. Here’s what you can do to avoid the infection altogether.

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How the Aging Brain Affects Thinking

 

The brain controls many aspects of thinking—remembering, planning and organizing, making decisions, and much more. These cognitive abilities affect how well we do 3 older men playing chess in the parkeveryday tasks and whether we can live independently.

Some changes in thinking are common as people get older. For example, older adults may have:

  • Increased difficulty finding words and recalling names
  • More problems with multi-tasking
  • Mild decreases in the ability to pay attention

Aging may also bring positive cognitive changes. People often have more knowledge and insight from a lifetime of experiences. Research shows that older adults can still:

  • Learn new things
  • Create new memories
  • Improve vocabulary and language skills

The Older, Healthy Brain

As a person gets older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain.

  • Certain parts of the brain shrink, especially those important to learning and other complex mental activities.
  • In certain brain regions, communication between neurons (nerve cells) can be reduced.
  • Blood flow in the brain may also decrease.
  • Inflammation, which occurs when the body responds to an injury or disease, may increase.

These changes in the brain can affect mental function, even in healthy older people. For example, some older adults find that they don’t do as well as younger people on complex memory or learning tests. Given enough time, though, they can do as well. There is growing evidence that the brain remains “plastic”—able to adapt to new challenges and tasks—as people age.

It is not clear why some people think well as they get older while others do not. One possible reason is “cognitive reserve,” the brain’s ability to work well even when some part of it is disrupted. People with more education seem to have more cognitive reserve than others.

Some brain changes, like those associated with Alzheimer’s disease, are NOT a normal part of aging. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are concerned.

Brain Regions

The brain is complex and has many specialized parts. For example, the two halves of the brain, called cerebral hemispheres, are responsible for intelligence.

The cerebral hemispheres have an outer layer called the cerebral cortex. This region, the brain’s “gray matter,” is where the brain processes sensory information, such as what we see and hear. The cerebral cortex also controls movement and regulates functions such as thinking, learning, and remembering.

For more information about parts of the brain, see Know Your Brain from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health.

How Brain Cells Work

The healthy human brain contains many different types of cells. Neurons are nerve cells that process and send information throughout the brain, and from the brain to the muscles and organs of the body.

The ability of neurons to function and survive depends on three important processes:

  • Communication. When a neuron receives signals from other neurons, it generates an electrical charge. This charge travels to the synapse, a tiny gap where chemicals called neurotransmitters are released and move across to another neuron.
  • Metabolism. This process involves all chemical reactions that take place in a cell to support its survival and function. These reactions require oxygen and glucose, which are carried in blood flowing through the brain.
  • Repair, remodeling, and regeneration. Neurons live a long time—more than 100 years in humans. As a result, they must constantly maintain and repair themselves. In addition, some brain regions continue to make new neurons.

Other types of brain cells, called glial cells, play critical roles in supporting neurons. In addition, the brain has an enormous network of blood vessels. Although the brain is only 2 percent of the body’s weight, it receives 20 percent of the body’s blood supply.

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What Causes Psoriasis?

The root of this chronic condition lies beneath your skin. What does psoriasis look like, what causes it, and how do you treat it?

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Questions to Ask Before Participating in a Clinical Trial

 

The following are some questions to ask the research team when thinking about a clinical trial. Write down any questions you might have and bring your list with you when you first meet with the research team.

Older man asking a researcher questions about clinical trials

  • What treatment or tests will I have? Will they hurt?
  • What are the chances I will get the experimental treatment?
  • What are the possible risks, side effects, and benefits of the study treatment compared to my current treatment?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • How will you protect my health while I am in the study?
  • What happens if my health problem gets worse during the study?
  • How will the study affect my everyday life?
  • How long will the clinical trial last?
  • Where will the study take place? Will I have to stay in the hospital?
  • Will you provide a way for me to get to the study site if I need it?
  • Will being in the study cost me anything? If so, will I be reimbursed? Will my insurance cover my costs?
  • Can I take my regular medicines while in the trial?
  • Who will be in charge of my care while I am in the study? Will I be able to see my own doctor?
  • Will you follow up on my health after the end of the study?
  • Will you tell me the results of the study?
  • Whom do I call if I have more questions?
  • How will you keep my doctor informed about my participation in the trial?
  • Does the study compare standard and experimental treatments?
  • If I withdraw, will this affect my normal care?
  • What are the chances that I will receive a placebo?
  • What steps ensure my privacy?

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Clinical Trials: Benefits, Risks, and Safety

 

You may ask yourself, “Why should I try something that researchers are not sure will work?” That is a good question. Being part of a clinical trial may have risks, but it may also have benefits.Older couple listening about the benefits, risks, and safety protections of clinical trials

Benefits of a Clinical Trial

  • You may get a new treatment for a disease before it is available to everyone.
  • You play a more active role in your own health care.
  • Researchers may provide you with medical care and more frequent health check-ups as part of your treatment.
  • You may have the chance to help others get a better treatment for their health problems in the future.
  • You may be able to get information about support groups and resources.

Risks of a Clinical Trial

  • The new treatment may cause serious side effects.
  • The new treatment may not work or it may not be better than the standard treatment.
  • You may NOT be part of the treatment group (or experimental group) that gets the new treatment—for example, a new drug or device. Instead, you may be part of the control group, which means you get the standard treatment or a no-treatment placebo.
  • The clinical trial could inconvenience you. For example, medical appointments could take a lot of time or you might be required to stay overnight or a few days in the hospital.

How Will My Safety Be Protected?

This is a very important question. The history of clinical research is not perfect. Based on many years of experience and learning, Congress has passed laws to protect study participants. Today, every clinical investigator is required to monitor and make sure that every participant is safe. These safeguards are an essential part of the research. Research abuses like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, which began in 1932, before safeguards were in place, will NOT happen again.

Researchers are required to follow strict rules to make sure that participants are safe. These rules are enforced by the Federal Government. Each clinical trial also follows a careful study plan or protocol that describes what the researchers will do. The principal investigator, or head researcher, is responsible for making sure that the protocol is followed.

An Institutional Review Board, or IRB, at each study site must approve every clinical trial in the United States. The IRB is made up of doctors, scientists, and lay people, like yourself, who are dedicated to making sure that the study participants are not exposed to unnecessary risks. The people on the IRB regularly review the study and its results. They make sure that risks (or potential harm) to participants are as low as possible.

Along with the IRB, many clinical trials are closely supervised by a Data and Safety Monitoring Committee. The Committee is made up of experts in your condition who periodically look at the results of the study as it is in progress. If they find that the experimental treatment is not working or is harming participants, they will stop the trial right away.

The informed consent process also helps protect participants. Before joining a clinical trial, you will be told what to expect as a participant and all the things that might happen. For example, someone from the research team will explain possible side effects or other risks of the treatment. As part of the informed consent process, you will have a chance to ask questions about the trial. The clinical trial coordinator will be happy to answer your questions.

After getting all this information, you can think about whether or not you want to participate. If you decide to join the trial, you will be given an informed consent form to sign. By signing the form, you show that you have been told all the details and want to be part of the study. The informed consent form is NOT a contract. You can leave the trial at any time and for any reason without being judged or put in a difficult position regarding your medical care. Researchers must keep health and personal information private.

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