Sunday, July 19, 2009

Doc, do I need to stop...?

How much is too much? Well, it depends. Are we talking about alcohol? Tobacco? Cigars? Sweets? The occasional recreational pot use? (For the record, if it’s illegal or tobacco, I think any amount is too much!) There are many definitions of substance abuse, but I have a favorite one that a wise attending physician taught me during medical school. He said that when patients ask him if they need to cut back on something, he would reply, “ If I tell you that you absolutely cannot have it for the next thirty days, what would you say?”
It’s really a great gut check. If your doctor tells you no wine with dinner for the next month, and you feel an immediate panic or protest, perhaps you’ve become too dependent on that habit. Now, before everyone tells me that we believe a glass of red wine per day enhances your health, let me say that as long as you have no medical issues precluding alcohol (liver issues, medications that interact with alcohol, etc.) I happily agree! BUT, what we think is healthy is a 4 oz glass of wine. When is the last time you poured yourself only 4 oz in a lovely red wine glass? And do you stop at one?
The point of this blog entry is not at all to pick on wine at dinner, which happens to be my own favorite vice, but to point out that it’s healthy to occasionally step back and look at our indulgent habits and see if we’re becoming too dependent upon them.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s TOO MUCH if the thought of giving it up for a week produces anxiety!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Normal aging or Alzheimer's?

July 4th evokes deep emotions within Americans, as we reflect on our many freedoms in this great country. This holiday has an additional significance in our family. My mother endured Alzheimer’s for nearly twelve years, and gained her freedom from this physically and emotionally sapping disease on July 4th, 2004. While our family was deeply saddened by our loss, we were relieved that she was no longer suffering the daily frustrations inherent with severe memory loss.
Many people are fearful that they are developing Alzheimer's disease. Do you forget why you walked in a room? Can't find your keys or the tv remote? Couldn't think of an old friend's name when you ran in to them at the store? RELAX- none of these episodes are unusual for a healthy, busy adult. Typically these things happen when you are stressed and simply not paying much attention to your task at hand.
What is concerning, then? Forgetting directions to the grocery store where you always shop; missing multiple appointments because you confused times/dates; being unable make change or figure out tips (when you could before) or not being able to name common objects (like a watch or a shirt.)
If you think you are having significant memory issues, please go and see your doctor! There are many causes of memory loss that are correctable, and even if you do have early Alzheimer's disease, we have good medicines that really slow the progression of disease.
Bottom Line: Memory loss with Alzheimer's Disease can be distinguished from memory changes with normal aging; if you are concerned, go see your doctor!