Is it fuzzy thinking—or Alzheimer’s?

It was a long time ago, but I remember the experience like it was yesterday.
After a hard day at the office, I drove into the garage and was relieved to be home.
Grabbing my briefcase, I began opening the car door. But in a sudden burst of panic, I couldn’t remember where the handle was.
It may have been just a few seconds, but it seemed like half-an-hour. As my panic grew, I groped for a handle. I was trapped!
Was there anyone home? How would I ever get out?
Finally, I calmed down and opened the door!
I was about 45 years old at the time and never for one minute thought it could be the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease.
Yet, today, I see many of my younger friends worrying about their “fuzzy thinking.” Could they possibly be “losing it?”
One said good morning to her cat by name–but it was the wrong name. One backed out of the garage–without opening the door.
Another wrote a cheque, then couldn’t find it. She had deposited it in the kitchen wastebasket.
Yet another had two dogs–one was a runaway and the other one stayed on the lot. The owner put the leash on the good dog and let the “runaway” run!
Obviously, I’m not an expert on Alzheimer’s, but I have researched “fuzzy thinking” and know there is a difference between the two.
At the risk of being too simplistic, here’s a simple definition. Fuzzy thinking is when you forget where you left your keys; Alzheimer’s disease is when you forget what your keys are for.
Alzheimer’s is a very sad disease and we all hope not to be afflicted by it. But, on the other hand, too many of us worry needlessly.
Fuzzy thinking can be caused by many things. The most common cause for mid-life women is the hormonal changes that come with menopause.
Another is fibromyalgia, which is a painful and life-disrupting disease. And one of the worst symptoms is problems with thinking and memory.
The U.S. National Institute of Health calls it “fibro fog,” which is diagnosed as a physical symptom of fibromyalgia–not a psychological one.
A 40-year-old man forgets an important meeting, an older woman forgets a coffee klatch. We all forget. No one is exempt. That’s the price of being human!
And as we get older, many of us take medications that can affect memory.
In his book “Memory: A Very Short Introduction,” neuroscientist Jonathan Foster says that “everyone experiences memory lapses.”
He goes on to say there is a tendency as you get a little older “to attribute these lapses automatically to the effects of aging, rather than just to normal individual variability [with aging being but an incidental factor].”
Foster believes that, whatever your age, there are things you can do to improve your memory. Among them are exercising, eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, and reducing stress.
He also recommends giving your brain a workout.
Solve crossword and Sudoku puzzles, learn a new language, play chess, or look up unfamiliar words when you are reading.
And always give yourself the benefit of the doubt—and don’t worry for a second because you have fuzzy thinking!
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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