As we age, it’s common to notice a decline in cognitive health. You may find yourself forgetting common words or getting lost while driving a familiar route. But when are these things normal – and when are they a cause for concern?
The next time you see your doctor, it may be time to ask about keeping your brain healthy. Your primary care doctor can help you understand if you’re at risk for cognitive decline, what to look out for in the future, and how to keep your brain at its best.
To help you prepare for your next checkup, we’ve put together this list of questions you should ask your doctor about your brain health. Your doctor can help assess your cognitive wellbeing, consider your family history, and develop a personalized path toward good brain health.
1. What signs and symptoms should I be looking out for?
The signs of neurological and/or cognitive decline look different in every person. Your doctor can help identify if your habit of forgetting where you left your keys is normal or a sign of something serious.
Sometimes, signs of dementia or other degenerative brain diseases manifest in ways other than simple memory problems. You may notice disruptions in your:
- Ability to concentrate
- Personality or demeanor
- Judgment making ability
- Communication or ability to form coherent thoughts
- Physical coordination or spatial reasoning
Your doctor can inform you in detail about what to look out for. They can listen to you and help you determine if something is normal or needs further attention.
2. How can I keep my brain and mind healthy?
This is a big question without an easy answer. Getting an answer to this question is also the number one reason you should seek professional medical advice rather than trying to solve problems on your own.
In general, you may know that the key to a healthy brain is through maintaining a healthy body and engaging in mentally stimulating activities. But the specifics of how to do just those can be murky, especially if you’re struggling with other health issues that may limit your mobility or inhibit your drive to engage mentally.
Taking into account your unique medical history and present situation, you and your doctor can set goals and develop a plan of attack. For some, that means seeking physical therapy and making a diet plan. For others, that means getting specialized treatment at a neurological center. Your brain health is connected to the rest of your wellbeing. By talking to your doctor about keeping your entire self healthy, you can potentially stave off cognitive decline.
3. What are my treatment options?
As we mentioned in the last question, your specific path to brain health depends on your current situation. Treatment will also depend on your present wellbeing and the underlying cause of any cognitive problems. Your doctor can help diagnose an underlying cause and recommend treatment.
Your treatment will depend on your stage of cognitive decline and whether or not it’s caused by disease (such as Alzheimer’s) or lifestyle. Often, you may need to pursue treatment that addresses both. Ask your doctor about how you can improve your current brain health – and how to prevent future decline.
It’s important to remember that the best course of action isn’t always another pill or prescription. Lifestyle changes, such as incorporating more exercise into your daily routine, can have a tremendous impact on your brain health. Things like quitting smoking, getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals each day, and controlling diabetes can greatly improve your cognition. You may also want to pursue cognitively stimulating activities with a coach, like what we offer at Fit Minds.
4. Do I need to see a specialist?
Your primary care doctor is one of the most important resources available to you. They can answer a lot of your questions – and refer you to specialists when their body of knowledge reaches its limit.
Many insurance plans won’t allow patients to schedule appointments with a specialist without a referral. Specialists can provide more in-depth treatment plans and better explain aspects of cognitive health to you than your primary care physician can.
Seeing a specialist isn’t always restricted to those with serious health problems. Specialists can often help prevent or delay future problems. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about potentially getting a referral.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Memory Loss
We often only consider our brain health when we begin to notice something going awry. That something is often memory problems.
During your discussion on brain healthy with your physician, it can be helpful to bring up memory loss if that’s an issue on your radar. Let’s continue this list with a few questions to ask specifically about memory loss.
5. What do I do if I’m concerned about memory loss?
All of us have trouble remembering facts and details from time to time. In fact, having a spotty memory isn’t always a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s. But when your memory loss begins to significantly impact your daily life or is paired with other cognitive declines, then it’s time to seek a professional opinion.
Your doctor can help assess whether or not you’re at risk for Alzheimer’s and understand if your memory loss is a sign of something serious – or related to a different health issue entirely.
6. What can I do to prevent memory loss?
There’s a lot of misinformation about what can prevent or reverse memory loss. Simply keeping up with the daily crossword or taking a homeopathic supplement isn’t enough.
You may think memory loss is just an inevitability of aging, but that isn’t always true. Through cognitive stimulation, like what we specialize in here at Fit Minds, it’s possible to keep your brain healthy and active well into your silver years. When cognitive stimulation is combined with a good diet, moderate exercise, and proper management of your overall wellbeing, it’s possible to prevent memory deterioration. Your doctor can recommend specific actions you can take to keep your memory in working order.
7. What do I do if I think my memory is starting to deteriorate?
It can be incredibly difficult when you realize your memory is starting to fail. Often, memory problems show up with other brain issues, like difficulties with organization, problem-solving, or communication.
When you start to notice problems or a loved one has begun to notice problems with your memory or communication, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Ask about what next steps they recommend, whether that’s further assessment or treatment planning. They can help figure out the underlying cause and make a plan for the future.
Furthermore, your doctor may be able to introduce you to support groups and peer organizations for people dealing with memory loss or other brain problems. Joining a group won’t necessarily reverse memory loss, but it can be beneficial to your mental and emotional health all the same. Joining a community can keep you social and connected with other people.
Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Brain Health
Many people feel ashamed or embarrassed about bringing up memory problems. But not asking your doctor for help and hoping the problem magically goes away isn’t the answer. As a patient, it’s your doctor’s duty to listen thoughtfully to your concerns, answer your questions, and treat you with respect and compassion. There are no bad questions when it comes to your brain health.
Your physician is there to help and support you. Here at Fit Minds, we’re also here to support seniors in their journey towards good brain health. To learn more about our one-on-one coaching, click here to contact us.