Memory Support - November 13, 2020

Memory Screening: What You Should Know about Keeping a Healthy Memory

Memories are the treasures that can bring a smile to our faces on even the darkest day, which is why memory screening is crucial. Imagine if you were suddenly robbed of these precious moments. This is what happens to people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. You can’t wish Alzheimer’s away, so making the most of it and getting an early diagnosis is the best route to take. The effects of Alzheimer’s can show up long before people receive an official diagnosis, and early detection is crucial.

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and November 16 is National Memory Screening day, so this is the perfect time to encourage people to get a memory screening. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s or if you would simply like to know the state of your memory, you should have a memory screening.

If you are 65 years or older or have experienced age-related memory loss, you can benefit from screening. Talk to your doctor if you have experienced unusual memory loss, such as getting lost in familiar places or forgetting how to do daily activities. At alzfdn.org, you can find a list of questions to help you determine whether you should schedule a memory screening.

What is a Memory Screening?

A memory screening is also referred to as a Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE). It involves a series of questions and/or tasks, and it takes about 10 minutes to complete. It is conducted by a healthcare provider and is only a baseline that might indicate if someone could benefit from a comprehensive medical evaluation. The test includes basic questions that can consist of remembering a few words or counting backward. The test administrator might ask you to write something or copy a line drawing. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) recommends annual “healthy brain checkups” as part of an annual medical checkup.

The memory screening does not offer any specific diagnosis—nor should it replace an appointment with your doctor. The test provides a way to learn whether you have a memory problem. Memory problems can happen because of several different medical conditions, so even if you have a memory problem, you may not have Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Some reasons for memory problems cannot be reversed, but others can be corrected by taking vitamins or treating a condition such as thyroid issues.

You must get follow-up treatment after discovering you have memory loss. Early diagnosis of a condition such as Alzheimer’s can mean treatments that can significantly improve a person’s quality of life.

Where Do You Get a Memory Screening?

The National Memory Screening Program by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America provides free, confidential memory screenings throughout the country and has screened millions of people. You can find locations near you by visiting https://alzfdn.org/memory-screening/find-a-site/. Virtual screening is also being made available during the COVID-19 pandemic; refer to the AFA site for more information.

How Can You Help Keep a Healthy Memory?

As people age, there are expected changes in the structure and function of the brain. These changes can make it a bit harder to learn new things and can cause issues with remembering things. But there are strategies that can help keep your brain—and your memory—sharp:

  • Keep learning new things. Staying mentally active can help keep your memory strong.
  • Be confident in yourself. Don’t buy into myths about the aging process. Studies have shown that middle-aged and older people perform worse on memory-related tasks when they are exposed to negative stereotypes about memory and aging.
  • Preserve your brain power for the important things. If you don’t have to think about where you put your keys or what time your grandson’s graduation party is, you can focus on other things. Keep your keys in the same place and write down appointments on the calendar so you won’t have to remember them.
  • Repeat what you want to remember. When you meet someone new, make it a point to repeat their name to enhance your ability to remember it.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and seafood. Dark, leafy greens are especially well known for their antioxidant benefits in fighting certain diseases, and they have also been shown to help reduce age-related memory loss. Don’t underestimate the importance of healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts, as part of a well-rounded diet that can contribute to memory health.
  • Regular aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping can enhance the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that impacts learning and memory.

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