Health & Fitness

Memory Loss: Why early intervention is key

What is life without memories? This devastating and frightening reality is one known too well by the over 5.7 million Americans affected with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

Between the years 2000-15, there was an astounding 123 percent increase in deaths due to this progressively worsening illness. It is estimated that in 2018, routine treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias will cost the nation $277 billion.

Dr. Elizabeth Crocco.jpg
Dr. Elizabeth Crocco is the medical director of the Memory Disorder Clinic at UHealth’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Aging, part of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Research has shown that changes can be occurring in the brain begin decades before there are any detectable clinical symptoms. Thus, the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, and attempts at modifying or preventing the disease through break-through clinical research has become a global priority that fuels medical advancement.

Drugs developed thus far, have not been able to modify the course of the disease; however, research that focuses on early intervention may be one of the best methods for halting Alzheimer’s progression.

The Center on Cognitive Neurosciences and Aging (CNSA) of the University of Miami’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science is leading the charge on combating Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders by developing state-of-the art tools for early detection, and advancing treatment techniques for those at-risk by studying the aging brain, associated cognition, and biological markers of early disease processes.

Luis Sierra.jpg
Luis A. Sierra, BA, is a research support coordinator with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

It is through early diagnosis and intervention of AD where we can make the biggest impact. The 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life.

  • Challenges in planning or solving problems.

  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.

  • Confusion with time or place.

  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.

  • New problems with words in speaking or writing.

  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.

  • Decreased or poor judgment.

  • Withdrawal from work or social activities.

  • Changes in mood and personality.

While there is no cure for AD, it is imperative that anyone who is in the early stages of mild cognitive impairment see a memory disorders specialist, followed by enrollment in research studies that will help us better understand the changes that happen in an aging brain. This is the pathway towards a cure and a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.

As such, the University of Miami Health System will host a community presentation titled “Memory: What can you do?” at noon Aug. 10 at the Newman Alumni Center, 6200 San Amaro Dr. in Coral Gables. Attendees will be able to receive a free memory screening. To RSVP for this event or for more information regarding research studies, please contact brac@miami.edu or call 305-243-5840. A live streaming of the event will also be available cnsa.med.miami.edu/memory-disorders-center.

Dr. Elizabeth Crocco is the medical director of the Memory Disorder Clinic at UHealth’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Aging, part of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Luis A. Sierra, BA, is a research support coordinator with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
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