Does losing your train of thought or the inability to come up with the right word mean more than just a passing “senior moment”? Maybe so, concludes a study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Senior moments don’t suggest that Alzheimer’s is near, the researchers reported, but these minor lapses could be meaningful among those being evaluated for thinking or memory problems.
The investigators collected information on 511 seniors, average age 78, all of whom already had memory problems. The participants took tests of standard thinking and memory, and the researchers interviewed their family members to find out whether other key symptoms were present: staring into space, illogical or disorganized thinking or daytime sleepiness. The investigators detected three or four of the symptoms in 12 percent of the study participants and determined that those affected were 4.6 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Of 216 participants with very mild or mild dementia, 25 had mental lapses, which were seen in only two of 295 of participants with no dementia. Commenting on the findings, other experts said it is more important to identify physical biomarkers that can be measured on medical tests to reveal both Alzheimer’s progression and the effectiveness of treatment.
Rather than worrying about the meaning of senior moments, it is more prudent to take action to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. Since the disease is believed to have an inflammatory component, follow an anti-inflammatory diet, get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (walking, biking, swimming) most days (exercise can cut your risk by 50 percent) and challenge yourself intellectually to build up neural connections that function as insurance against later brain-tissue losses. Don’t smoke, and maintain a healthy weight to further reduce your risks.