Why are we seeing so many more people with memory problems and memory disorders today?

The primary reason is that we are living longer. In 1900 in the U.S. the average life expectancy from birth was 47.3 years. Due to major life-saving medical advances, improved sanitation, a ready supply of clean drinking water, the development of antibiotics to treat infections and vaccines to prevent diseases, we are living much longer, about 30 years longer on average. Every day in this country approximately 10,000 people turn age 65.

It so happens that age is the number one risk factor for developing memory problems and memory disorders such as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s dementia. After the age of 65 the risk steadily increases. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 95% of all cases of Alzheimer’s dementia occur over the age of 65. Presently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or other types of progressive dementia. But fortunately, great strides are being made in research to better understand these diseases and to develop better treatments and even cures for these devastating conditions.

A memory assessment or neuropsychological testing is usually part of a comprehensive cognitive evaluation process initiated by a person’s primary care physician or neurologist with the goal of determining the cause of the problem. However, anyone concerned about his or her memory or that of a loved one can request such an evaluation by Dr. Peppard.

A proper assessment of memory function is very important in determining if you or a loved one has actual memory deficits and possibly a memory disorder such as MCI or early dementia. There are over 60 different possible causes for memory problems and your doctor will use various tests to determine the cause or causes. Lab work such as blood work and urinalysis, a complete physical examination, a review of medications may be ordered and possibly a neurological examination, a memory assessment, and perhaps an MRI scan of the brain. All of this information will help your physician in deciding what may be causing the changes in memory and cognitive functioning and develop a treatment plan.