NEW ORLEANS — Every three seconds someone in the world develops a case of dementia.
The estimated cost of that brain illness is a staggering $1.3 trillion.
But you can lower your risk by knowing the risk factors, ways to prevent brain decline and by taking a free memory test.
Stephen Melancon has to mentally multi task daily. As the WWL-TV News assignment manager, he's the logistic guy, keeping track of all the story pitches coming in, what's getting covered, and at every moment where all of the camera and reporter crews are, in case there’s breaking news. So, when we needed someone to take the live memory test for our story, he volunteered.
“Both my grandmother's dealt with Alzheimer's and, or dementia. So, it runs in my family. So, I'd like to know,” Melancon said.
The test is quick and easy. It takes less than 10 minutes. And it's free for adults of any age.
“Banana, sunrise, chair,” Melancon says to the test instructor. “Alright. Excellent. Please spell the word ‘world’ backwards,” she asked him.
The confidential memory test is given virtually by the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, year around.
“Memory screenings are something that everybody should get. Just as you get regular screenings for your cholesterol, or your blood pressure, there's different types of cancer screenings that we undergo. It's important to get a check up from the neck up too,” Chris Schneider, Communications Director for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America said.
After Stephen came up with 24 words starting with a "C" in 60 seconds, and 18 types of animals, he got his score.
“So, you got an overall score of 41, which is a great score. The way this works is there is a threshold of 23, and you score well above that,” the tester explained to Stephen.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation says being proactive when it comes to brain health is important. So, early detection of impairment is vital.
“Because it gives you a greater opportunity to start medications sooner, to help slow the progression of some of the symptoms when they're most effective, it affords you greater opportunity participate in a clinical trial, it allows you to start different therapeutic intervention sooner. It also gives you a greater say in developing your care plan,” Schneider said.
But early screenings are also good because you could find the memory change is related to something treatable. Some of those are:
- A vitamin deficiency of D or B-12
- Sleep apnea or sleep deficiency
- Thyroid imbalance
For long-term brain protection:
- Regular exercise creates new brain cells
- Sleep is when the brain regenerates
- Eat a diet of whole, not processed packaged foods.
- Take fish oil daily
- Get rid of stress, with actions like meditation
- Cut alcohol to get increases problem-solving, attention span, and rational thinking
- Stop smoking
- Keep a normal weight
- Don’t let your body have an estrogen deficiency after menopause.
Two-thirds of people with Alzheimer's are women. Studies show estrogen is the master regulator of the female brain, playing a role in energy, immunity, cell growth, and communication. Early natural, or surgical menopause, puts women at an increased risk for dementia earlier in life. One study showed women on non-oral HRT, like patches or implants or injections, had a substantial decline in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis. HRT is most protective when started early, even in perimenopause.
The Alzheimer's Foundation has already screened five million people, but they commonly hear a reason for avoiding the test.
“There's some fear there in terms of if they have a problem, they don't want to know,” Schneider said.
“Today's date is November 14, Monday 2022,” Melancon answers in the screening.
So for now, Stephen has a memory baseline for a comparassion for his annual tests.
The Alzheimer's Foundation also has support for caregivers.
For more on that or to make an appointment for the free memory screening, click here.