Memory screening helps prevent dementia, and it's free to do in New Jersey

Memory screening helps prevent dementia, and it's free to do in New Jersey ...

If youre concerned about the danger of dementia, theres something you can do right now to decrease your risk.

Get your memory checked.

That simple act of preventative care is one of the best ways for older adults to protect themselves from the ever-present threat of Alzheimers disease.

If they could be persuaded to do it more often.

Surveys show that nearly all primary care doctors and 82% of their older patients agree that an annual cognitive assessment would be beneficial. Yet only 16% of adults 65 and older say they regularly have their memory evaluated.

Leading New Jersey memory specialists and the Global Alzheimers Platform Foundation are launching a statewide memory screening initiative in November that will provide eagles with harrowing results after completing specialized memory tests at three of the state renowned Alzheimer's research centers.

John Dwyer, the GAP Foundation's president, adds, "Were inviting all people over age 50 to come to the screening event, whether you have memory concerns or not." If youre concerned about your memory, getting an evaluation is a quick, no-cost way to determine if you have memory issues beyond what is normally expected with normal aging, he added. If your memory is in the normal range, the results of that screening give you a baseline for comparison if you notice cognitive changes as you age.

The free, confidential memory screening will be available on Nov. 3 and Nov 17. at three Alzheimers research centers. All are members of the Global Alzheimers Platform Foundation network, which focuses on dementia prevention and advances clinical research. These sites are:

The Cognitive and Research Center of New Jersey, 195 Mountain Ave., Springfield, NJ 07105

Princeton Medical Institute, 256 Bunn Drive, Suite 6, Princeton, New Jersey 76108

Advanced Memory Research Institute of New Jersey, 9 Mule Road, Suite E9, Toms River, NJ 08002, USA,

The 30-minute memory testing for adults aged 50 and older will be conducted in a private setting. After you complete the assessment, youll meet one-on-one with a memory specialist who can discuss the findings with you and address any questions or concerns you may have about your memory. Youll also find information on brain health, dementia prevention, and local resources that you may take advantage of.

To learn more or to schedule a memory screening appointment, visit the NJ Memory Screening Initiative page or call toll-free at (888) 533-1131.

Regular cognitive tests are a good idea for all older adults, particularly if Alzheimers is present in your family or unless you have memory issues that you find alarming, according to health experts.

In an ageing America, these worries must be taken seriously and addressed effectively. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimers, and unless we find more effective ways to treat it or prevent it, that number is projected to more than double to 13 million by 2050.

Recent years have been marred by unanticipated advances on the prevention front. The Lancet Commission and other groups estimate that 40% to 60% of all dementia deaths could be prevented by putting more emphasis on lifestyle changes, along with brain-health education, annual memory screening, and early detection, by increasing the emphasis upon lifestyle modifications.

Thats why Us Against Alzheimer aims to get the United States to set a National Alzheimer's Prevention Goal and implement policies to achieve it, including broad-based memory screening initiatives.

Kelly O'Brien, executive director of the Us Against Alzheimer's Brain Health Partnership, says while drug development is going on, more attention must be given to keeping our brain healthy and reducing risk. She claims that new evidence suggests that dementia is preventable, and older adults who maintain healthy habits and get their memory checked regularly can reduce their risk of Alzheimers.

Theres still a misperception that cognitive decline is inevitable, and that s just not true, OBrien says. People can take action. I find it astonishing that, despite how exciting this news is, it isnt well-known. People should think about brain health much earlier.

Part of being proactive about brain health is having your memory tested once a year, just like you would for an eye exam, smear, or hysterectomy, and youd also need recheck your cholesterol levels at the doctor for yearly blood tests.

The fear and stigma associated with Alzheimers may discourage some people from taking a cognitive test, but OBrien believes that we as society must stop thinking it this way. She claims that memory screening is simply good, basic preventative health.

When I get my blood pressure checked, I dont feel like the doctor is accusing me of heart disease, she adds. Its like anything else we just want to catch it early. Id like to see us get to a point where were doing memory screening regularly so we can see any changes over time.

Here are four reasons why older adults should consider annual memory screenings like those offered in New Jersey.

1. It may also show that, despite your worries, your memory is perfectly fine.

Many people who take a memory test end up among what experts call the worried well. They feel their mind is slipping, but the results show their memory remains within a normal age range for someone their age. What a relief that may be. However, its also an opportunity to learn more about brain health and preventing dementia, so you can take steps to keep your mind sharp.

2. It establishes a baseline score that you and your doctor may track over time as an early warning system.

As you continue to be tested every year, it becomes easier to detect and address any subtle declines in the future. Too often, people ignore memory problems for years, until the symptoms begin to show up. By that time, too much damage has been done to the brain, and treatment options are restricted. When that decline is detected at the very earliest stage, the chance to prevent or delay further decline becomes even greater.

3. If there is a memory problem, it may be caused by symptomatic medical condition.

Sometimes, a person avoids getting their memory tested because they fear the underlying cause is Alzheimers. There are also other possible causes for memory loss. Not every problem with your cognition is dementia, says O'Brien. Sometimes, its a drug problem or youre not getting the proper nutrition. Many of the things that cause cognitive impairment can be treated and corrected, says Ehler.

4. If the screening indicates a problem, you may be referred to specialists for further evaluation, an accurate diagnosis, and individualized treatment.

When you get your memory checked through this new state program, the score may indicate youre cognitively normal for your age or it may suggest possible or probable cognitive impairment.

If the latter is the case, that is not a diagnosis of dementia. Its an indication that therell be a memory issue that needs to be addressed. To be evaluated and diagnosed properly, you may be referred to cognitive specialists such as a neuropsychologist, neurophysiologist, or geriatric psychiatrist. When that diagnosis is made early enough, a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatment may delay the progression. It's also an opportunity to be considered for participation in a clinical trial.

If a screening indicates cognitive decline, that information will help you plan for care and treatment, says Dwyer. Many individuals choose to volunteer for clinical research. That gives them access to brain health specialists and, potentially, to investigational medications, and it makes them part of the team searching for cures.

OBrien adds that its never too early and itll never be too late to make lifestyle changes that may improve cognition. There is some evidence that they may delay onset and reduce the risk, she adds.

Regular exercise, eating healthy foods, managing stress, remaining active, keeping your mind stimulated, and having an annual brain-health checkup that includes cognitive testing are some of the most brain friendly habits.

OBrien claims that these healthy habits dont guarantee dementia prevention, but they may help you keep your mind sharp and give you a greater chance of preventing Alzheimers. She compares them to the choice you make to buckle up when you get behind the wheel of a car.

We tell people to wear a seatbelt, and that doesnt mean you wons not hurt, she says. These risk-reducing behaviors have no downside. There are no side effects. It may seem more difficult than taking a pill, but the rewards are far greater. These are things that will only help you live a long, healthy life.

All three sites that offer the free memory screening The Cognitive and Research Center of New Jersey in Springfield, the Princeton Medical Institute in Princeton, and the Advanced Memory Research Institute of NJ in Toms River will have COVID-19 safety measures in place, as they have throughout the epidemic.

Appointments are required for the screening. You may choose the location that is most convenient for you and schedule your appointment online by going to the NJ Memory Screening Initiative page at https://globalalzplatform.org/njmemoryscreen/ or by calling toll-free at (888) 533-1131.

Tony Dearing can be reached at tdearing@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TonyDearing. NJ.com is also available on Facebook.

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