How many of you have been in mid-conversation with someone and forgotten what you were going to say, or stepped into a room and found yourself trying to remember why you were going there? No doubt we’re living fast-paced lives, with too much on our plates. But, some moments of forgetfulness could be early sign of dementia.

Although many dismiss their forgetfulness with a joke, fact is about 5.8 million Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Approximately 200,000 Americans under age 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s.

While people often use the terms Alzheimer’s disease and dementia interchangeably, there is a difference. Dementia is the broad term for any cognitive decline severe enough to interfere with daily living. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia; it is a progressive, fatal brain disorder


Normal forgetfulness happens to all of us. Neurologists say what you want to look for is a significant change in normal behavior. If you have one of those forgetful moments, and you can’t track your actions back in time, that is not normal. Another reason for concern is if you’re forgetting really important things, like your children’s birthdates or a standing appointment.

Other red flags include:

Communication problems- Asking the same question repeatedly, getting lost during a conversation or forgetting the name of a close friend or relative

Confusion about time or place – Getting lost while driving to the grocery store, forgetting where you are, going to what you think is a dental appointment at 3 a.m., or losing track of the year

Misplacing things or putting them in unusual places – Losing things or putting them somewhere odd (like keys in the refrigerator) and then being unable to retrace your steps to find them. Many people in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s may accuse others of stealing.

Mood or personality changes – Acting quieter or more argumentative or displaying a behavior unlike your normal temperment. Becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious. Withdrawing from social activities.

Everything seems monumental – You’re having difficulty with everyday tasks like paying bills or a bank transaction, keeping things organized or doing the laundry.

Risk Factors

  • Age- is the greatest known risk factor. After age 65, the risk doubles every five years, and about a third of people older than 85 have the disease.
  • Genetics – If you have a parent, brother, or sister with Alzheimer’s, you’re nearly twice as likely to develop the disease, and if you have two of these immediate relatives with the disease, you have almost four times the risk. Even having second- or third-degree relatives with Alzheimer’s increases your risk, according to a 2019 study published in Researchers have identified a gene called APOEe4 that occurs in about 40 percent of people who have the disease.
  • Race and ethnicity– African Americans are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as Caucasians; Hispanics are about 1.5 times more likely. It is thought that this increased risk is related to these groups having higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
  • Poor cardiovascular health- heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all conditions that damage the heart and blood vessels and have been shown to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. So, don’t blow off taking prescribed blood pressure and cholesterol medicine.

What You Can Do

According to the Global Council on Brain Health, these six key behaviors can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and/or ease the course of the disease:

  • Maintain social ties – even if it’s having coffee with a neighbor or dinner with a friend.
  • Challenge the brain – with puzzles, crossword puzzles, board games, reading books, etc.
  • Manage stress.
  • Exercise regularly- What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Walk, run, swim, or bike 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week.
  • Eat right – That includes strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, turmeric, cocoa, cinnamon, nuts, flaxseed and fatty fish.
  • Get six to eight hours of restorative sleep – A Harvard study of those 65 and older showed that individuals who slept fewer than five hours per night were twice as likely to develop dementia. Researchers think if you don’t get enough sleep, your brain won’t have enough time to drain away beta amyloid (the protein that clusters to form Alzheimer’s plaque.) So, it continues to accumulate, day after day, until they cause dementia.

As of now, there is currently no proven cure for Alzheimer’s, although promising treatments are being developed. The sooner a case of Alzheimer’s is diagnosed and the patient is on medication to manage it, the better chance for delaying the disease’s progression and a chance for a quality of life.