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Dementia – Are you at risk?

Dementia – Are you at risk?

Cognitive decline starts in the 30’s, is gradual and the subtle changes are often not picked up until significant cognitive parameters have decreased. However, getting a brain “check-up” has been shown to be effective when symptoms are addressed early.


Dementia is a term used to describe the gradual deterioration of a person’s mental abilities, in combination with changes in their personality and behavior. The earliest signs that something is wrong can start in the late thirties or early forties. Some common symptoms are forgetting your car keys or not being able to recall information in a few seconds. 

You are probably thinking that you are able to do your job easily, so you must not have a problem. Yes, indeed you can do your job with such ease that you are almost in autopilot mode. The catch is that in early stages your learned behavior, however complex, is not affected. You do not lose all your cognitive function in one swift blow; the loss is gradual.

Cognitive function is the quality of knowing, including all aspects of perception, recognition, conception, sensing, thinking, reasoning recall and imagining. As cognitive dysfunction advances you will encounter difficulty processing, dealing with, and reacting to new situations. For example, a CEO of a multimillion-dollar corporation is having problems with small things. He has trouble dealing with new acquaintances, reading a map, and figuring out how to work the remote even with the instructions in front of him. The CEO can easily do tasks that are included in his daily work schedule, but information that he does not often use and that are not pertaining to his job are hard to remember. This successful CEO is slowly drifting into dementia. 

The main symptoms of dementia are memory loss, disorientation, communication difficulties and personality changes, such as moodiness. We at ILIV believe that tell-tale signs of future dementia should be screened when individuals are in their thirties. It is no different than a thirty year old with vague chest pain on exertion; no doctor would pass it off until he ends up in the ER with a heart attack. Why then is brain dysfunction treated differently?

Harvard University researchers reported in the online edition of Nature [June 9, 2004] that twenty genes critical for learning and memory begin to decline in function as early as age forty. At ILIV, we have been using gene testing as part of our brain health assessment since it became available. Gene testing can tell uswhether or genes make us predisposed to memory loss. ILIV is one of the few centers in the country that offer patients the chance to detect dearly dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and age related cognitive dysfunction.

Some of the tools that we use include: 

Many other test such as viral studies to imaging studies like MRI, PET scans are made available as indicated by the unique needs of each patient. 

Traditionally, such test could take months to co-ordinate and would involve several trips to many different specialist. At ILIV, we have brought all components together in one place to conveniently serve your needs. Research has shown that the progression of dementia can be delayed with early treatment. In recent years, new therapies and drug treatment for the condition have been shown to be more effective when administered at an early stage of the illness.