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December 27, 2007 - As a test of your memory, read the following list of words only once, and then see how many you can remember when you are told to recall them later in this article (And don't peek!) -- Dream, nod, sheet, tired, night, insomnia, blanket, night, artichoke, alarm, nap, night, snore, pillow.

Social worker Daniel Kuhn of the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association gave this test to a group gathered recently at the North Shore Senior Center in Northfield, and the results were somewhat surprising. You will find out why in a minute.

Many seniors worry that when they forget their keys or a doctor's appointment they are showing early signs of Alzheimer's, Kuhn said. The answer lies in frequency and degree, Kuhn said. Medication and lack of sleep can also cause temporary memory loss in otherwise healthy individuals, he said.

Those who are aging normally can forget part of an experience, while those with Alzheimer's often forget the entire experience, he said. Those with Alzheimer's are increasingly unable to follow written and spoken directions or use reminder notes, he said.

Those with Alzheimer's may also often forget words, get lost on their own street, forget how to balance a checkbook, become more irritable than usual, show rapid mood swings and become very passive. They may do odd behaviors such as putting an iron in the freezer or show poor judgment with money, paying for products they don't need.

But even those who go on to have Alzheimer's can still enjoy life, and the chances are close to 50:50 you will get the disease once you reach the age of 85, Kuhn said. Research is also showing that you can try to put the odds in your favor, with diet, exercise and mental and social activity linked to lowered risks of getting the disease, Kuhn said.

Many of the preventive measures you take to reduce your chance of heart disease and diabetes also can reduce the risk of dementia, he said. Lowering weight and cholesterol have been linked to lowered risk of Alzheimer's. So a daily regimen that includes a small glass of wine, a handful of nuts and exercise -- all of which can lower cholesterol and weight -- are all beneficial, he said. But Kuhn advised caution.

"I didn't say prevent Alzheimer's, I said reduce the risk. You can't discount that heredity plays a role, just like it does in heart disease and cancer," Kuhn said.

Kuhn said he also likes to dispel myths that those with Alzheimer's are doomed to a life of isolation.

Because of this myth, Kuhn said he was delighted when news leaked out that retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was not upset in the least that her husband, who has Alzheimer's disease, was involved in a romantic relationship with a woman he met at his assisted living residence.

"This story blows the lid on stereotypes. It's not a death sentence. People are living with it," he said.

Now that you have been distracted, cover the list of words at the start of the article and write down as many as you can remember.

The surprising results are that many write down the word "bed" which is not on the list, Kuhn said. This faulty memory also occurs with those who have Alzheimer's, and can lead to serious arguments at home if family members are not aware of it, he said. This tendency to remember something that our minds logically think should have been said, even if it was not, occurs more often in those with Alzheimer's, he said.

Most remember the word "artichoke" since it was so out of place, he said. We frequently remember unusual events more than commonplace, he said.

Many in the group at the North Shore Senior Center recalled the word "night" since it was repeated three times. Repetition is a good memory jogger, so write reminder notes to yourself in more than one place, Kuhn said.

For those diagnosed with early stages of memory loss or mild cognitive impairment, the North Shore Senior Center has launched Mind Matters, a new weekly group program, meeting 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays, starting in January. The fee is $40 per week, plus a $40 enrollment fee. For more details on Mind Matters, call the House of Welcome at (847) 242-6250. You can also get information on Alzheimer's disease at

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