Brain Awareness Week is a time when we acknowledge the significant advances made in treating brain problems. But it’s also a time to become aware of the signs and signals that something is wrong. Headaches, for example, can be caused by a variety of issues and are usually relieved by taking an over-the-counter pain reliever. But when your usual cure doesn’t help, it’s time to visit your doctor.
Headaches can be a symptom of a brain tumor, especially when combined with seizures, vision problems, balance and walking problems, or a weakness in one part of the body. Symptoms of a stroke include weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body, loss of vision and speech, severe headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness.
Other brain problems, like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, are completely different and start more slowly. Lots of people have a little forgetfulness as they get older, and it doesn’t mean that they are suffering from dementia. The main difference between dementia and other mental changes is a decrease in cognitive abilities affecting the ability to reason, speak, think, or remember the recent past. There may also be a change in behavior or personality, frequent mood changes or a lack of interest in normal activities and hobbies. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, make an appointment with your doctor for a diagnosis and to discuss your options.
When it comes to healthy vision, it’s especially important for people over the age of sixty to be aware of any changes. As we age, we become more vulnerable to eye problems, many of which will lead to loss of sight.
Glaucoma, Cataracts, Macular Degeneration and eye problems associated with other health conditions like diabetic retinopathy are some of the most common problems among adults 60+. Regular eye exams with dilation are one of the best ways to identify and treat serious eye problems early and save your vision. Be aware of any vision changes, severe pain in or around the eye, floaters, flashes of light, a “curtain” or darkness in one eye, or painful sensitivity to bright light. Make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately if any of these symptoms appear.
Your hearing needs some awareness too, especially as we age. Most everyone experiences some hearing loss as they age. But when you have a hard time understanding what people are saying, your family complains that you have the TV too loud, you avoid social situations because you can’t hear someone speak when there is background noise, it’s time to schedule a hearing test.
People who can’t hear well are far more likely to develop dementia, suffer from depression and anxiety, and withdraw from activities. Technology has provided incredible options for people with hearing loss, from apps for phone use to hearing aids that disappear in the ear canal, to cochlear implants. An audiologist can perform all of the tests necessary to determine the type, and cause of your hearing loss and the correct treatment for you. You’ll enjoy life more and live longer when you can hear correctly. Be more aware of the world around you.