Memory loss is NOT the first warning sign of Alzheimer’s

May 9th, 2016 by NHI

Every day, I hope to open up the newspaper to find a headline announcing a cure for Alzheimer’s has been discovered.

Today was not that day … so prevention is still king in my book. (And it will probably remain that way, even if the medical industry comes up with a drug.)

So, if you’re like me and prevention is what you have in mind, consider this: Memory problems are NOT the first sign that Alzheimer’s disease is taking hold. Read on for the details. . .

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True, those little “senior moments” are a bad sign, but there are even earlier symptoms to watch out for that give you time to change course.

In fact, by the time you notice your memory slipping, Alzheimer’s may have already set in.

Don’t let that happen.

The First Three Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

The Alzheimer’s Association divides the progression of the disease into three stages: mild/early, moderate/middle and severe/late.1

The minute you start noticing symptoms of mild/early onset is when you should take action.

Here they are:

Stage 1: No memory impairment (Preclinical stage)

At this stage, memory is still intact and clinical tests for dementia will most likely return negative results.

However, there are still subtle signs that the brain is beginning to change, including signs of depression.

In a study published in Neurology, researchers in Stockholm, Sweden studied 222 people over age 74, assessing them for even the slightest signs of depression, including:

  • Mood
  • Motivation
  • Lack of interest in usual activity
  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating

They followed the participants and tested for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia after three years had passed.

They discovered that those who had developed the disease had also exhibited more symptoms of depression at the beginning of the study when they were first assessed.

The association between depression and Alzheimer’s remained true after adjusting for subjective memory complaints, which prompted the researchers to conclude that the people did not become depressed because they sensed their mind or cognitive abilities were failing. Their symptoms of depression were a symptom of the very early (preclinical) stages of dementia.2

Stage 2: Very Mild Decline

A person in Stage 2 will likely perform well on memory tests, where they are asked to deal with actual memory problems that mimick “typical” age-related memory loss.

But again, small clues may indicate something more is going on.

According to a meta-analysis of 47 studies published in the journal Neuropsychology, people with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease showed deficits in:

  • global cognitive ability (overall intelligence)
  • episodic memory
  • perceptual speed and executive functioning (time management, difficulty seeing plans through)
  • verbal ability (changes in speech patterns)
  • visuospatial skill
  • attention (easily distracted where they weren’t before)

All these changes were evident even though the people in the studies showed no preclinical loss in primary memory.3

Stage 3: Mild Decline

This stage is the one where friends and family may start to notice significant problems with memory and cognitive functioning, including difficulty finding the right word during conversations, remembering names of people they’ve met recently and losing personal possessions such as keys or valuables.

In all three early stages, but especially in stages 1 and 2, it may not be too late to slow or even reverse the progression of the illness.

From Stage 4 on, the person exhibits clear-cut memory and functioning problems that gradually worsen until the brain and body have been so weakened they become extremely susceptible to infections.

The most common causes of death for Alzheimer’s patients are pneumonia, other infection or coronary arrest.4

If you notice a relative or friend of advanced age is showing subtle signs of depression or other changes mentioned here, urge them to take immediate action:

Quit smoking, switch to an anti-inflammatory plant-based diet, begin exercising regularly (a daily walk is enough) … do whatever needs to be done as soon as possible to prevent the onset of full-blown Alzheimer’s.

Resist the urge to deny what’s happening.

Pretending “everything will be fine” or “it’s just old age” is wasting valuable time that you or a loved one could use to make lifestyle adjustments that could prevent the worst.

Best Regards,

Lee Euler


1Stages of Alzheimer’s.
2The occurrence of depressive symptoms in the preclinical phase of AD: a population-based study.
3Cognitive impairment in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease: A meta-analysis.
4Alzheimer’s disease and end-of-life issues.


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