Forgetfulness or dementia? How to tell the difference in elderly loved ones

If you’re spending time with elderly friends and family members this holiday season, be aware of noticeable changes in their memory and behavior, as these can be early warning signs of dementia.

“If you haven’t seen your elderly loved one in a while, you might be more likely to notice changes in their memory and behavior that worries you,” said Dr. Gregory Jicha of the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.

Here are some early warning signs of dementia that you might notice in an older friend or family member:

  • It’s normal for someone to forget a date or a name but suddenly remember it later. However, pay attention if they ask for the same information repeatedly, or struggle to recall important dates (like their own birthdate).
  • Are they having trouble following a recipe? Problem-solving skills can deteriorate in someone with Alzheimer’s.
  • Do they get lost when driving to a familiar location? If they have difficulty completing familiar tasks, it might be a sign of AD.
  • Healthy people occasionally struggle to find the right word, but using the wrong word  ̶  particularly if they call something by the wrong name  ̶  merits further scrutiny.
  • Poor judgment: are they giving lots of money to telemarketers or charities?
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Personality changes: are they suddenly irrational, fearful or suspicious?

Memory infographic

If you see any behavior that worries you, talk to your doctor. To make an appointment with a UK HealthCare doctor, visit our Appointment page or call 800-333-8874 today.

More information:

The Memory Disorders Clinic at the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute

 

Learn more about binge-eating disorder

When most people hear the term “eating disorder,” they usually think of anorexia or bulimia nervosa. While anorexia and bulimia are more commonly recognized, doctors are concerned about a different kind of eating disorder that is on the rise.

Binge-eating disorder, or BED, is a disorder characterized by excessive overeating. Though it is common to overindulge occasionally, especially around the holidays, those with BED are plagued with insatiable cravings that lead to recurrent episodes of intense overconsumption. Unlike the binge and purge aspect of bulimia, those with BED do not try to compensate for the caloric intake by excessive exercise or induced vomiting.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in short periods of time
  • Feeling like your eating behavior is out of control
  • Eating when full or not hungry
  • Frequently eating alone or in secret
  • Feeling guilty about binge episodes

BED is quickly becoming the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder in the United States, affecting one in 35 people. More than six million people have been diagnosed with BED since the American Psychological Association first recognized it as a disorder in 2013. BED is what doctors call an ‘equal opportunity’ disease. Unlike anorexia and bulimia, which more commonly affects women, or body dysmorphic disorder, which is seen more in men, binge eating disorder tends to occur equally among the sexes.

Causes

Though doctors and psychologists are unsure of what triggers binge eating disorder, they have noticed increased prevalence in those with a history of depression or dieting and weight fluctuation, and/or a family history of eating disorders. Young adults are also more likely to suffer from eating disorders.

Treatment

Since binge eating disorder is treated as a mental illness, other psychiatric disorders are often linked with BED. The most common are depression and anxiety. Obesity is also frequently associated with BED and can cause other medical conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

If you or someone you know shows signs of binge eating disorder, encourage them to talk to a physician or psychologist. BED is very treatable through medication, lifestyle changes, and/or psychotherapy.

Lori Molenaar

Lori Molenaar

 

Lori Molenaar, APRN, is a member of the Eating Disorder Treatment Team at the University of Kentucky’s University Health Service.

E-cigarettes present a danger to adolescent smokers

Understanding the dangers of e-cigarettes

In the 1970s, Congress banned tobacco ads to protect our impressionable youth from perceiving smoking as socially desirable.

Now, for the first time in decades, advertisements portraying the recreational use of tobacco products are reappearing in popular media. Advertisements present e-cigarettes and vaporizers as safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes. Tobacco control advocates fear this type of exposure will unravel decades of progress in America by renormalizing smoking.

Researchers know little about the long-term effects of e-cigarettes. We do know nicotine, a highly addictive substance, has harmful effects on the adolescent brain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report more young people are trying e-cigarettes, and those who try e-cigarettes are twice as likely to express intent to smoke conventional cigarettes. About three out of four teen smokers will continue to smoke into adulthood.

It’s imperative that parents, mentors, teachers and youth are not misled about dangers of e-cigarettes through advertising.

No regulatory standards

The e-cigarette is classified in the U.S. as a tobacco product, not a tobacco cessation therapy. These devices came on the market in 2007 without any FDA testing and escaped many of the safety controls that protect consumers from potential harm.

FDA investigations are finding inconsistencies with the chemical and nicotine content reported on the product’s label and what is actually in the e-juice. Both devices and e-juice can be customized. Currently, no government standards exist for the production process or ingredients used in e-cigarettes or e-juice.

Exposure to highly addictive nicotine

Tobacco control advocates are especially concerned about the consequences of exposing teens to any amount of nicotine, which is highly addictive. Most people start using tobacco products before age 18. The younger a person is exposed to nicotine, the harder it is to quit later in life. Nicotine exposure can cause lasting harm to the brain and promote sustained use.

In addition to nicotine, e-cigarette users are exposed to 40 to 60 other chemicals found in e-juice. To date, no scientific evidence can fully explain the effects of those chemicals on the body when they are heated and inhaled.

Use for illegal substances

Youth are able to modify e-cigarettes for the consumption of illegal drugs. The devices can mask an illegal substance and facilitate smoking at school.

E-cigarettes are not innocuous devices. The unanswered questions regarding the safety of these devices and the detriments of exposing youth to nicotine aren’t worth the risk of trying them.

Audrey Darville

Audrey Darville

 

 

Audrey Darville is a tobacco treatment specialist at the University of Kentucky and an assistant professor in the UK College of Nursing. 

Adolescent health care plan should include HPV vaccine

For women younger than 40, cervical cancer is among the leading causes of cancer-related death. With modern vaccines to protect against the underlying cause, human papilloma virus (HPV), cervical cancer is also one of the most preventable types of cancers.

As a society, we have the opportunity to wipe out or significantly reduce a disease by vaccinating the population. Still, many American health care providers and families aren’t getting their children and teens vaccinated, and our youth are suffering the consequences.

Cervical cancer, as well as cancers of the throat, penis, rectum, vulva and mouth, can develop from changes in cells caused by HPV. Since the FDA approved the first versions of the HPV vaccine in 2006, nearly 7 billion doses have been administered worldwide. HPV continues to spread because of a national resistance to accepting the vaccine as part of standard preventive care.

Because of social stigmas surrounding HPV vaccinations, only around 30 percent of men and women under the age of 25 have been vaccinated in both Kentucky and nationwide. Only 27 percent of women between the ages 13 to 17 have received the recommended dosages of the HPV vaccine. Many health care providers and parents view these vaccinations as elective or irrelevant unless a youth is sexually active. In reality, HPV can be transmitted a number of ways, including from a mother to a child during delivery. Statistics show most people will contract one form of the virus at some point in their lives.

Until 2014, the two vaccination options were Gardasil 4 and Cervarix, both of which protect against HPV strains 16 and 18 or the strains responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers and Gardasil 4 also protects against 90 percent of genital warts (Strains 6 & 11). Last year, Gardasil 9 entered the market targeting strains 16 and 18, as well as five additional strains, covering HPV types responsible for almost 90 percent of cervical cancers. The vaccine also protects against HPV strains 6 and 11, which cause genital warts.

Parents and adolescent providers must seize the opportunity to vaccinate their youth before infection occurs. Countries that provided massive free vaccination such as Australia have experienced a 70 percent drop in cervical cancer rates, as well as other cancers associated with HPV.

Next time you visit your pediatrician or adolescent health provider, insist on including an HPV vaccine in your child’s preventive health care plan. Both boys and girls should be vaccinated. The vaccine is safe and effective, and prevents 70 to 90 percent of the disease. As a parent, doing everything in your capacity to protect your child from harm means making the decision to get the HPV vaccine — the only certain way to prevent these forms of cancer.

Dr. Hatim Omar

Dr. Hatim Omar

Dr. Hatim Omar is the chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.