Memory Issues Are A Big Problem

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Interviewer: Doctor, with an aging population that we have in this country, how big are cognitive and memory issues becoming?

Dr. Puya Yazdi: Oh, they're becoming absolutely huge. What you've got to look at is as of right now; you could roughly estimate that about 12% of the population is over 65-years old.

Interviewer: OK.

Dr. Yazdi: Of that, about 1/3 of them suffer some sort of age-related cognitive decline. We're not just talking about Alzheimer's or serious diseases like that that are causing the decline, but almost any kind of decline that's considered a very normal part of the aging process but it's still things that me, you, or anybody else who have become over 65 does not actually want to suffer through. On top of that, the bigger issue is that 40-50 years ago, the average lifespan was about 65, 66, 67 years old.

Interviewer: Mm-hum.

Dr. Yazdi: But as medical technology and therapy have gotten better, you're getting an older and older population that is living longer and longer. While we are much better at keeping people alive for longer periods of time, we're not better at improving their quality of life.

Interviewer: Right.

Dr. Yazdi: One of the real issues that is becoming is that because the medical technology is able to keep these people living longer, you're now seeing more and more people suffer through these age-related cognitive declines just because that part of the medical science hasn't really caught up.

Interviewer: What are some of the warning signs of that? You and I can still where'd-my-keys-go and this and that, but as we get older, what are some of the red flags that we should watch for?

Dr. Yazdi: There are certain ones that are really red flags that you need to see a physician, because you have to worry about Alzheimer's or some sort of dementia. Dementia is not normal. Dementia is an absolute disease, and there's different kinds of dementia. Those are things that are much more serious, and they get very exact. For instance, mood changes or loss of not remembering certain important details, like who friends are, who relatives are. That's the extreme spectrum where you're going through a real disease-like state that's causing massive amounts of damage in your brain. In the other end, there are certain things that almost everybody needs to watch out for, which is not just forgetting where your keys are, but noticing that it's becoming harder and harder for you to read a newspaper and accumulate new pieces of information. Getting harder and harder for you to do tasks that, before, you found it much easier to do. For instance, something simple as, let's say you're an accountant, and you used to be able to do complex math in your head very easily and now taking longer and longer. Even forgetting little pieces of detail, like forgetting what you were supposed to do. Noticing that you have to write down way more information than you used to. So those are all considered what medical calls normal age-related cognitive decline, but those are still things that we need to watch out for because, while they may be part of the aging process, they're not necessarily things that a person wants to go through because they're decreasing their quality of life.
Dr. Puya Yazdi explains why memory and cognition issues are becoming a bigger and bigger issue. He also explains what some of the red flags are you should look for when it comes to memory loss or dementia.

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