Ever since President Ronald Reagan brought the disease into to the spotlight in 1983, efforts have been launched across the country to raise awareness - but a lot of misinformation still surrounds Alzheimer's. Here are a few of the common myths.
The first myth is that memory loss is a normal part of aging. The fact is, while some forgetfulness is common as we age, severe, debilitating memory lapses are a sign of serious illness. It's one thing to forget where we left our car keys but forgetting your address or where you live could be a red flag that you may need to see a doctor.
Another myth is that Alzheimer's disease is difficult to diagnose. The fact is: With a variety of tests, doctors can diagnose Alzheimer's accurately 90% of the time. These tests may include mental status evaluations, brain scans, psychiatric evaluations and lab tests to rule out other problems.
Finally, a common myth is that there's nothing you can do to prevent Alzheimer's disease. The fact is there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. The Alzheimer's Association offers several mind-strengthening tips through its maintain your brain program, including:
Protecting your heart from heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke
Feeding your brain by eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits.
Move your body. Exercise encourages the growth of new brain cells.
Work your brain by reading, writing, playing games and solving puzzles. Keeping your brain active builds reserves of brain cells and connections.
If significant memory issues are a concern for you or a family member, the first step in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease is a mental status exam, which a primary care physician can perform.
"it's a series of general knowledge and memory questions that can tell a doctor how well a patient is doing and if there's a need for additional testing," says Thomas Hinton, M.D., a diagnostic radiologist at Midland Memorial Hospital.
Additional testing would include imaging tests of the brain such as pet-ct scans, which are available by referral at Midland Memorial. During the PET-CT scan, doctors can evaluate how different areas of the brain are functioning.
For more information on Alzheimer's disease and how PET-CT imaging works, visit midland-memorial.com.