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Forgetting This One Thing Can Mean You Have Alzheimer's

Language difficulties can be an early sign.

It's well-known that memory problems can be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease. But forgetting one thing in particular can be especially indicative of Alzheimer's. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Is Alzheimer's Disease?

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Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, an umbrella term for a number of conditions that involve changes to memory, thinking, and judgment that ultimately interfere with a person's independence and ability to function. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, about 5.8 million people are living with Alzheimer's in the U.S. today. Most cases are diagnosed in people older than 65.

Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. A person with Alzheimer's lives, on average, four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years.

Although Alzheimer's currently has no cure, there is one treatment, a drug called aducanumab (brand name Aduhelm) that may slow cognitive decline, the Alzheimer's Association says.


Forgetting This Can Be A Sign

Close-up portrait of charming old lady, covering her mouth with hands

Language difficulties, including forgetting the right words for things, can be an early sign of Alzheimer's. 

"People living with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation," says the Alzheimer's Association. "They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong name (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock")." 

To cope with these language difficulties, a person with Alzheimer's may become withdrawn and isolate themselves from others. That can make those symptoms easy to overlook; family members might write them off as shyness or feeling down.

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Other Signs of Alzheimer's

Moody aged man feeling unhappy.

Other symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Misplacing items and being unable to retrace steps to find them
  • Visual and spatial problems, such as getting lost on familiar routes
  • Difficulty with planning or problem-solving
  • Trouble completing familiar tasks, like cooking a often-used recipe
  • Coordination problems (such as difficulty walking, or increased dropping or spilling of items)
  • Unexplained changes to personality, such as depression, anxiety or mood swings

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What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?

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"Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer's disease," the CDC says. "There likely is not a single cause but rather several factors that can affect each person differently." These include:

  • Age (the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's and dementia is simply getting older)
  • Family history
  • Potentially, diet, lifestyle and environment. Researchers are still examining these potential connections, but several studies have found that a healthy lifestyle seems to reduce Alzheimer's risk.

"Experts agree that in the vast majority of cases, Alzheimer's, like other common chronic conditions, probably develops as a result of complex interactions among multiple factors, including age, genetics, environment, lifestyle and coexisting medical conditions," the Alzheimer's Association says.  

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When to See a Doctor

Doctor doing an eye exam on his patient.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer's, experts say it's important to pursue a thorough medical evaluation. This may warrant a trip to a specialist, such as a geriatrician or a neurologist. 

Not all cognitive symptoms like memory loss are due to dementia; they can have treatable causes, such as insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression. The only way to know for certain is to get any concerns checked out. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael