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Is It Alzheimer's or Just Aging?

Experts disagree on early signs

Are you constantly looking for your keys or forgetting names? Is that an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, or is it just normal age-related memory loss?

If you know enough to be worried about your forgetfulness, you're probably fine, says this Washington Post article appearing in the Seattle Times. If people keep telling you that you've just asked them the same question over and over again, you might want to check with your doctor. You could have what's known as mild cognitive impairment, which means trouble with short-term memory.

Some doctors believe such memory lapses are the first signs of Alzheimer's, while others disagree, noting that in today's hectic society it's possible that people never have an opportunity to commit some things to memory.

"Where exactly so-called 'normal aging' leaves off and a specific disease called dementia begins is very difficult to identify," says Alzheimer's researcher David Drachman, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

However, there are certain clues that give strong indications a person might have Alzheimer's. One is constantly forgetting what day of the week or what month it is, says the article. Other symptoms can include trouble performing routine tasks and difficulty coming up with appropriate words.

Diagnosing the disease early may become more important as doctors develop new drugs that can help reverse the memory loss. One new drug is showing promise in clinical trials, reports this HealthDay story.

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