Specialist shares best ways to promote brain health
Dr. Jacob Hall is a neurologist affiliated with Temecula Valley Hospital, with a clinical focus on memory disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. In recognition of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month, he shares a few practical tips and updates with our community.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in people over the age of 65. Alzheimer’s is incremental and, early on, a person may seem to be healthy but have increasing difficulty making sense of the world around him or her. Signs of mild Alzheimer's can include:
- Memory loss
- Poor judgment leading to bad decisions
- Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
- Repeating questions
- Trouble handling money and paying bills
- Wandering and getting lost
- Losing things or misplacing them in odd places
- Mood and personality changes
- Increased anxiety and/or aggression
If you or a loved one is exhibiting any of these symptoms, they should connect with their doctor.
Diagnostic tools expanding
We now have several available lab and imaging tests that can help make an accurate diagnosis early in its course.
- Cerebrospinal fluid tests are currently the best option — they are accurate, covered by most insurances, and a spinal tap is rarely as bad as most people imagine.
- We are beginning to have access to blood tests as well — they are not as accurate yet, but may be a good option for people who want to avoid a spinal tap.
- Brain (PET) scans are very accurate, but also very expensive and generally not covered by insurance.
There are several FDA-approved medications that can help with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and we are getting closer to having groundbreaking medication options that will slow the progression of Alzheimer's.
In the meantime, studies continue to show that heart-healthy lifestyle choices may reduce the risk of dementia by half or more. Many of these, like getting 20-30 minutes of exercise per day and following a Mediterranean diet, are within reach for most of us and can have a substantial impact on our brain health.