Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Memory lapses are common and increase with age; when do they signal Alzheimer's? - washingtonpost.com

By Rachel Saslow - Washington Post Staff Writer

Where did I park my car?

What is that lady's name?

Where are my glasses?

Some call these "senior moments" or "tip-of-the-tongue" experiences. They're mundane for many elderly (and not-so-elderly) adults, but when do they become something more serious? How does one know when it's time to get screened for a memory disorder?

"The reason it's becoming such an acute concern for everybody is that baby boomers are starting to get into the higher-risk age group, but the bigger driver for this is the baby boomers' parents," says James Lah, an Emory University neurologist, who is 48 and has parents ages 73 and 81. "That age bracket is very high risk, and seeing it in our parents makes you acutely aware and afraid of that prospect."

The risk of mild cognitive disorder and dementia increase with age; Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia. About 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer's and, in 2008, it passed diabetes to become the sixth-leading cause of death in this country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, partially because of the lack of treatments to stop or reverse it. Some studies estimate that a person's risk of developing the disease doubles every five years after age 65.

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