Fade far away but try not to forget

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Fade far away but try not to forget


Lately, I feel like I am out of my mind some times. One day, I forgot to bring my cell phone on my way to work and had to run home to retrieve it. Another day, I left my wallet there and walked to the bus stop without realizing it. Sometimes, I am sure I know someone’s face but cannot think of their name. Other times, I cannot remember if I have locked the car and have to go back to the parking lot. I gave up memorizing phone numbers long ago. News that there are more and more Alzheimer’s patients in their 50s scares me.

According to the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service, the number of patients in their 50s treated for Alzheimer’s disease nearly doubled in five years, from 1,624 in 2006 to 2,891 in 2010. One out of 10 Alzheimer patients suffers from presenile dementia, which affects individuals in their 40s and 50s. Brain function damage from serious stress may cause dementia, and cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar or stroke could lead to vascular dementia.

Dementia is fundamentally different from simple forgetfulness. If you don’t remember what you had for lunch, you may be extremely forgetful. But if you don’t remember having a meal at all, you may be suffering from dementia. When you have dementia, your most recent memories start to disappear. As if you are on a time machine and traveling back to the past; the memories are erased as you travel backward. My friend told me that his mother’s last memory was the sweet days when she was a newlywed. She was not very happy throughout her marriage, but for the last few months she had the loveliest time with her husband. Thanks to dementia, she traveled back in time to the happiest days, so the disease may have been a blessing for her.

Of Koreans over 65-years old, 8.4 percent are suffering from dementia, and 25 percent have mild dementia, with relatively lower cognitive function compared to the same age group. No one can be safe from Alzheimer’s, and prevention is the best option. Activities that require hand-eye coordination are effective in preventing dementia. There is a reason why card games are so popular among the elderly.

Some joke that if you find your wife increasingly attractive, it may be the first sign of dementia. In that case, I am clearly not afflicted by dementia yet. But I suffer the symptom around the time of her birthday and our wedding anniversary, so who knows if I have dementia?

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Bae Myung-bok
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