Learn about your brain's health by getting memory screening

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"Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that's very important for good health." - Dalai Lama

Brain health is a topic of conversation for many people in their 70s and 80s. People who attend our Brain Boosters classes often share that they wish they had started paying attention to their brain health at a much earlier age.

People are living longer and want to stay physically and mentally strong. It is never too early to start living a lifestyle that promotes brain health.

Last year, Memory Matters made a commitment to our community to encourage everyone, especially those over 55 years old, to get a baseline memory screening. We are making great progress but have a long way to go.

This is what you need to understand about this screening:

What is a memory screening? A memory screening is a simple and safe "healthy brain check-up" that tests memory and other thinking skills. The screening involves a series of questions and-or tasks that take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

The screening can indicate if someone might benefit from a comprehensive medical evaluation. It is not used to diagnose any particular illness and does not replace consultation with a physician or other clinician.

Why are memory screenings important? Some memory problems, such as those caused by a vitamin deficiencies or thyroid issues, can be readily treated. Other memory problems might result from causes that are not currently reversible, such as Alzheimer's disease. In general, the earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to treat one of these conditions.

Why get a memory screening? Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can improve one's quality of life. Individuals with Alzheimer's disease can learn more about the disease, including treatments; get counseling and support in their community; address legal, financial and other planning issues; and have more of a say in decision-making.

Caregivers and other family members can discuss treatment, future care and other issues with their loved ones, rather than having to make decisions on their own.

What is available to help keep my brain healthy? Whether or not you have a diagnosis, there are classes available at Memory Matters to promote brain health. Decades of research tell us that "neuroplasticity" gives the brain the capacity to continually grow and re-wire itself, even as we age. Just like going to the gym to keep our bodies in shape, attending brain health classes keeps your brain in shape.

For more information call Memory Matters at 843-842-6688 or visit our website at mymemorymatters.org.

Karen Doughtie is senior program director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org; mymemorymatters.org

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