Health Check: are my memory lapses normal or could this be Alzheimer’s disease?

Health Check: are my memory lapses normal or could this be Alzheimer’s disease?

I suspect that memory lapses concern us more than our peers. CLL related fatigue fogs our brains as well as draining our bodies and we aren't as sharp mentally if we are battling infections. And that's not even considering the belatedly recognised effects of treatment on cognition by the medical fraternity, now colloquially termed 'chemobrain'. Plus many of us are reaching that age when dementia becomes more of a concern, particularly if we've witnessed it occurring in a parent or older relative. So hopefully, this short but comprehensive article by Serge Gauthier, Director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Unit at McGill University, Montreal, Canada will put your mind at rest or at least explain what you or a family member should do to check if your concerns have any validity.

"From time to time, we all misplace our keys or forget someone’s name, at least for a few minutes. This may prompt worry about “getting Alzheimer’s”, particularly if we have an older parent who was afflicted by this disease.

It’s easy to see why people are concerned. Around one in nine people aged over 65 has Alzheimer’s disease. One in three over 85 has the disease. The risk increases with age and has a genetic component."

Encouragingly, if you've followed the health tips espoused on this site for improving your life with CLL and are involved with this community, then you've already done well in following the strategies mentioned in the article to reduce or prevent your risk of developing Alzheimer's:

"1) Reduce your vascular risk factors in mid-life: exercise regularly, reduce your weight and don’t smoke. This also helps control high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes if you already have these conditions.


2) Keep you mind busy, preferably with social interactions."

For a more general post on Cognitive Aging: Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action, see:

"At this point in time, when the older population is rapidly growing in the United States and across the globe, it is important to carefully examine what is known about cognitive aging, to identify the positive steps that can be taken to promote cognitive health, and then to take action to implement those changes by informing and activating the public,"


Photo: The bees here love corn pollen!

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7 Replies

  • I am certainly interested in more discussion on this topic as the brain fog that I get at times is worrisome and even at 61 I have concerns as to how much is CLL related and how much could be something else. BTW I have received no treatment that could be the cause. I have just noticed that on too many days, I am my own favorite vegetable.

  • Same for me, DocM. Sometimes my brain seems to clear and I can function quite well. :-) Other times - well yes, the favourite vegetable is a good description. I think mine is a stodgey potato :-(

  • I haven't had treatment either and one of the things I find frustrating about living with CLL is how long it takes me to work through mental tasks that used to be so easy. Thankfully I can usually just put whatever I'm working on aside and try again later. Sometimes a nap can make a huge difference; something that I'd been struggling with for several hours and getting nowhere becomes easy to work through. So I think it's a mixture of fatigue fogging the brain and also related to the effects of fighting off illnesses with a struggling immune system. Sometimes it's a bit like the effects of permanently living with a cold.

  • Thanks Paula S & Aussie Neil. Brain fog is just another one of the symptoms that my cancer centre said was not from CLL, but I'm going to change that.

  • And they know this how? Further to what I've mentioned above, it isn't unusual to have a fall in red blood cells and haemoglobin with CLL caused by marrow infiltration by the CLL or some degree of auto-immune haemolytic anaemia. Also, if your spleen is enlarged (another common symptom with advanced CLL), that can filter out and reduce the number of red blood cells available to circulate and keep your body and brain oxygenated:

    If your brain has been used to working with a higher level of blood oxygenation, why shouldn't you feel a degree of brain fog with CLL?

  • Hi I have found that if I am able when well to do the same things that I did before Cll. When I am firing on all four cylinders my brain comes alive again but all too often it seems to go into a shut down mode for its own self preservation. Having the words or knowing how to put into words how this feels can be very difficult especially in the doctor's office. Best wishes

  • Fantastic photo, Neil. Don't get too near those bees though - don't want you to get stung!

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