Memory Loss and Dementia: Does Early Detection Matter?

Many adults experience the occasional memory lapse—whether misplacing car keys or failing to recall the name of a television program. While most write it off as forgetfulness, others fear a serious health issue is at hand. But what causes these absentminded episodes? Is it aging, memory loss, or some other explicable—and treatable—condition?

In fact, the majority of these incidents are challenges of memory access rooted in stress, anxiety, depression, or other manageable conditions, rather than a serious health concern. However, when memory lapses occur is the ideal time to talk to your doctor to identify the underlying cause, whether a simple series of brain blunders or the early signs of cognitive health issues.

Many people who suffer from memory loss don’t seek treatment because they fear the label of a diagnosis, and frankly, don’t know that treatments are available. Only approximately five to six percent of memory lapse issues signify memory loss brought on by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Talking to your doctor to learn the underlying cause of memory lapses can offer peace of mind, or allow early intervention and proper treatment, if necessary.

Understanding Cognitive Health

At birth, an infant’s brain has 100 billion brain cells, or neurons. As we age, adults typically lose approximately 9,000 neurons per day after the age of 20. The early onset of cognitive decline (or neurodegenerative disease) comes when axons—the calculation and transmission part of neurons—are damaged, which accelerates neuron loss to exceed 300,000 per day. When neurons are lost, they cannot be replaced.

Studies show that neuron atrophy—the shrinking of brain cells—can begin as early as 17 years before diagnosis by subjective tests, since billions of neurons must be lost before a person exhibits symptoms that tests can detect. By then, too many neurons have been lost, and treatments are largely ineffective against further progression of neurodegenerative disease.

A person’s chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be increased by certain environmental factors, such as diabetes, obesity, midlife hypertension, smoking, depression, and mental and physical inactivity. While each factor carries a varying degree of risk, these conditions combined account for up to half of all dementia cases worldwide.

Benefits of Early Detection

When memory loss is detected early, doctors can monitor and manage a person’s condition and provide pharmacological or therapeutic treatments to stem the rate of memory loss, improve memory and cognitive function, and enhance their—and their loved ones’—quality of life. Early diagnosis can also allow patients and caregivers to prepare for the characteristics of dementia’s progression and ably plan for the future through legal, financial, and end-of-life decisions.

Furthermore, timely detection can significantly reduce the cost of care for Medicare and Medicaid patients by allowing them to remain independent longer and avoid the high cost of personal and memory care provided by senior living and other treatment facilities. According to a 2021 report, the cost to care for a person living with Alzheimer’s exceeded $350 billion, and is anticipated to surpass $1 trillion by 2050. Up to $7.9 trillion could be saved in health and long-term care spending through early detection.

Early detection of memory loss can provide immeasurable value to an individual and their loved ones, as well as their care and quality of life.

If you have a history of contributing health conditions or frequent bouts of memory lapse, contact your physician today to discuss how Axon Medical Technologies’ non-invasive, insurance-covered assessment may provide data leading to valuable early detection and treatment, or the comfort of peace of mind.

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