10 Memory Loss Tests
Memory loss can be frightening and is the thing that is the most feared aspect of aging. Some memory loss is typical with age, but memory decline is often accelerated or exacerbated by underlying medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea, stroke, brain injury, obesity, and depression. Fortunately, a healthy lifestyle and memory supplements like Vivolor Memory Support can help provide the nutrients your brain needs for health and memory.
The earlier you catch and stop memory loss, the better. It takes decades of brain decline before the 1st memory loss symptom occurs, so there is usually time to intervene and improve your overall health and brain health. The best strategy for addressing dementia is not to get it!! Since the brain pathology occurs for many years while there are no observable symptoms, some people wait to invest in their brain health until it is almost too late.
Changes in lifestyle have been shown to significantly decrease memory loss, even in severe memory loss and dementia. But you can’t start investing in your brain too early. Your brain is the operating system or controller for all of your bodily functions. So assessing your brain’s performance objectively and tracking it through testing is very important.
Symptoms of memory loss can happen very gradually and most people are not able to observe changes in memory. Our friends and family usually notice the decline before we do, since we are all very poor judges of our cognitive performance. This is why objective tests can be helpful. Fortunately, there are a variety of memory tests available that can not only show changes in performance over time but also can reveal which aspects of cognitive performance are experiencing the changes.
It is important to track your memory or that of your loved ones long before a physician diagnoses you with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Many people are confused about the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as they often appear to be used almost synonymously. But they are different.
Dementia and Alzheimers: What’s the Difference?
Even though memory loss is involved in both dementia and Alzheimer’s, there are differences between them. Dementia is a broad category of neurodegenerative diseases. Dementia is defined as a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory problems, personality changes, and impaired reasoning. In order to be diagnosed as dementia, memory loss must be severe enough to interfere with daily living.
There are multiple types of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases. These other types of dementia have known causes. Vascular dementia is caused by a stroke, blood vessel damage and/or high blood pressure. Lewy body dementia is a symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Frontotemporal dementia involves brain damage in the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain and affects personality, language and behavior. These other dementias often have different symptoms than Alzheimer’s disease, although all types experience dementia as a symptom.
That makes the nomenclature even more confusing because dementia is also the word used for the symptoms of severe memory loss. Not all memory loss is necessarily Alzheimer’s disease, so it is important to get the correct diagnosis since treatment can vary.
Clinical trials for pharmaceuticals are generally performed in Alzheimer’s disease, as they want a group of patients that are similar in the trials. Other types of dementia are often excluded from these studies. Alzheimer’s disease is the most studied subgroup of dementia, and this degenerative brain disease involves structural changes in the brain including the build up of amyloid plaques on the outside of neurons, tau tangles inside the neurons, and shrinkage in the size of the brain.
Dementia can occur at any age, depending on the etiology. Other medical situations including thyroid disease, stroke, brain injury, vitamin deficiencies, poor gut flora, and brain tumors can contribute to dementia.
Symptoms of dementia involve a lack of focus and attention, hallucination, slow response, problems with comprehension, and reasoning errors. Alzheimer’s often occurs over the age of 65 and has symptoms of difficulty remembering newly learned information, changes in behavior, disorientation, and other issues. Rates of dementia double every 5 years after age 65. Some studies estimate that half of all people over age 85 have dementia.
Although dementia and Alzheimer’s symptoms typically start with the loss of short-term memory, over time the impacts are quite broad. Emotional instability is common, including depression, anxiety, lots of tears and even paranoia. Long-term memory goes. Irritability, agitation, aggression, hallucinations and extreme changes in personality and behavior can be very distressing and make finding and keeping caregivers quite difficult.
Muscle control can be affected and walking, standing and eventually sitting become difficult. Balance is often affected and can lead to falls. Social withdrawal is a sign of advanced dementia, as the person becomes less active and may even quit talking. They lose the ability to care for themselves and need help with eating, dressing and going to the bathroom. Incontinence is a common symptom. Eventually even swallowing becomes difficult.
Most people do not think of dementia as life-threatening, but it is the 6th deadliest disease in the US. More people die of Alzheimer’s than breast and prostate cancer combined. Average life expectancy is only 4-8 years after diagnosis. Your brain controls everything you do! So it is very important not to wait, but to invest in your memory and track your cognitive performance before memory loss becomes an issue.
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What are Ways to Test Your Memory?
Here are various tests that people can take to assess their cognitive function. Some of these tests are also used by healthcare professionals in the diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Neurotrack takes a snapshot of a person’s mental acuity to allow for tracking progress over time. This system helps you manage your brain health and reduce the risk of future cognitive decline. It discusses and includes the 3 pillars of brain health: assess, strengthen and monitor.
The Neurotrack system assesses mental acuity with an eye motion tracker through a computer webcam. This eye tracking is said to allow measurements in multiple cognitive domains with detailed reports on processing speed, recognition memory, implicit memory, associative learning, and overall cognition. They claim it is clinically validated and based on scientific data. Neurotrack methods allow comparison to previous performance so that trends over time can be observed.
The program is modeled after interventions that were proven to be effective in the FINGER study. They have already performed a year long Phase 1 trial and are continuing with research on their system. Eye tracking is a surrogate measure. It does not directly measure cognitive performance as a cognitive test would, but Neurotrack scientists believe there is a strong correlation to brain performance. This could be used in conjunction with other tests to help ensure more accurate measurement.
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The MMSE test is also called the Mini-Mental State Examination and is typically used to test for memory problems and assess cognitive abilities. It is often used by clinicians to diagnose dementia and determine its severity and progression. MMSE consists of a series of questions and quizzes, each with corresponding point values. For each correct answer, the respondent gets a certain amount of points. The scores are added together, alongside with symptoms, physical examination, and history to determine whether a dementia diagnosis is appropriate.
Modified CDR Test
The Clinical Dementia Rating or CDR test was designed to be administered by trained medical professionals. However, over the years, the level of expertise needed to give this test has been changed so that anyone can initiate the test and interpret the results of the patient’s mental acuity. The CDR test only takes about three minutes and does not require any personal information. It does not provide a definite diagnosis of dementia, but it’s adequate enough to determine if additional steps are necessary.
The SAGE Test
The SAGE Test stands for Self Administered Gerocognitive Examination, but it’s not precisely self-administered, although at least it does not require a doctor. This exam can be taken over the internet and originates from The Ohio State University neurology department. The test is 80% effective in identifying people with memory problems.
The best way to take the exam is to download, print, and self-administer. A medical professional should interpret the results, but score instructions are online and aren’t that difficult to analyze. The SAGE Test takes about 10 to 20 minutes to complete, and the scoring process takes around 5 to 10 minutes.
The Mini-Cog test requires a test administrator that plays an active role during the process. It only takes five minutes to complete the test, and one minute to score and interpret the results. Any healthy adult can be involved in the test administrator role; it does not require any medical training. Keep in mind that the results do not diagnose dementia, but allows the administrator to know if further action is required.
The Clock Test
The Clock Test is one portion of the MMSE, Mini-Cog and SAGE evaluations. The Clock Test can be used in healthy adults, those with mild memory impairment or in dementia. It does not require a medical professional to administer it because it is straightforward and easy to do. The task involves having the person draw an analog of a clock, with the 12 numbers and 2 hands, with one hand on the hour, and the other on the minute.
The person being tested is asked to draw the hands designating a specific time. The scoring involves a point system. If the clock is drawn correctly, then the individual will score high and is unlikely to have dementia. However, if the clock is abnormal, missing numbers or hands, and the hands do not designate the time mentioned, then the individual will score low, which may signify potential dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Short Term Recall Test
In this test, the user is given 30 seconds to read over a list of 12 words. The words are removed and the respondent writes down as many of the words that they can remember. Make sure to have a sheet of paper and pen ready to record the answers. This is a free online test to check an individual’s short-term memory. It is also sometimes used by physicians as a quick and simple way to assess memory.
Spatial Working Memory
Spatial memory requires manipulation and retention of visual and spatial information. This is an excellent test to evaluate executive function, since many skills are combined for successful completion. The test begins with a number of colored boxes shown on the screen. The main objective is to select a box and use the process of elimination to find the box with a yellow token in it. The yellow tokens fill up empty columns on the right side of the screen. Depending on the level of difficulty, the number of boxes can gradually increase to a maximum of 12 shown for the participant.
Short Term Memory Test
With the short term memory loss test, users can test short term memory performance with a free online test. The test entails a series of images that will appear, and if the image repeats, the laptop user will push a spacebar, or the smartphone user will tap the image. Excellent performance is 90% or above on accuracy of the repeated image. A good average response time for selecting an image is less than 900 ms or 0.09 seconds.
Memtrax is a short and fun memory test that can be performed repeatedly. It can help identify factors that may influence your memory like medication or lack of sleep. In addition to that, users can take the test repeatedly to improve their performance. Tracking memory over time is helpful for analyzing brain health. It is created by a Stanford University scientist and clinician and has been in a variety of scientific publications to support its validity.
If an individual has advancing memory loss and is suspected of having dementia or Alzheimer’s, they should be taken to a doctor for the diagnosis. Unfortunately, there are a limited amount of things to use in the diagnosis, and no blood tests or definite diagnostic tools exist. The doctor will ask the patient a series of questions to assess the severity of the memory issue. They will also initiate a variety of lab tests to rule out other disorders like B 12 deficiency or thyroid issues.
The doctor may offer an MRI or CT scan to check for tumors, stroke, or hemorrhages. These can appear similar to Alzheimer’s disease and need to be ruled out and addressed if present. These scans also show the extent of amyloid plaques in the brain and the size of the brain. Loss of brain mass as the brain shrinks is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Because these brain scans are expensive, many insurance companies will not pay for them.
Currently, there aren’t any definitive blood tests on the market to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This makes diagnosis difficult. Blood tests for the diagnosis of dementia have been identified and are currently in clinical trials. It will likely be a few years before these blood tests receive FDA approval and are available on the market.
Now diagnosis is typically made based on performance on cognitive tests like MMSE, CDR, Mini-Cog and the changes in these brain test results over time. Many physicians are hesitant to even give a dementia diagnosis since many physicians do not believe that there is much that can be done. Actually, quite a bit can be done, but it is not necessary to wait until a diagnosis of dementia to start!
Genetic testing for genes that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia are available. A gene called ApoE4 means an increased risk of dementia. Anyone having 1 ApoE4 gene is approximately 4 times more likely to get dementia at some point in their life. Anyone having 2 ApoE4 genes is approximately 12 times more likely to get dementia. Having these genes also increases the risk of getting dementia earlier in life. But it is important to be careful with the interpretation of genetic risk. It only reveals the propensity for developing Alzheimer’s. It has nothing to do with the actual diagnosis. Not everyone with this high-risk gene will actually develop Alzheimer’s disease.
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Alzheimer’s and dementia can be very debilitating. Fortunately, a healthy lifestyle and mega-nutrients from memory supplements like Vivolor Memory Support can help improve brain health and potentially slow cognitive decline.
It is best to invest in your brain health as soon as possible. You do not have to wait for memory loss to occur to start investing in your health. And you certainly don’t want to wait until the desperate stage that dementia represents to take action. We track our weight and other vital signs whenever we go to the doctor’s office. Your brain health is as important as your temperature, weight or blood pressure, especially if you are over 50 years of age. You can track your own cognitive performance with these online tests so that you know if your memory loss changes trend or accelerates. Taking multiple tests can also help inform you of what aspect of cognition is declining.
Invest in your brain health now and keep your memory. A healthy lifestyle makes a huge difference in memory performance and can lead to a more enjoyable experience of your later years.