TODAY

TODAY   |  April 21, 2014

5 simple tests that could save your life

AARP contributor Barbara Hannah Grufferman and Dr. Donnica Moore discuss a few simple, at-home screening tests you can take to identify early warning signs of serious medical problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s or dementia.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> okay. has this ever happened to you. you see someone you know in the supermarket or a celebrity in a magazine and for the life of you, you cannot remember his or her name?

>> it does happen to all of us. if it is starting to happen a lot more often, it could be a sign of something more serious. before you get too worried there are tests you can do at home that could help save your life.

>> barbara hanan grufferman is a contributor to aarp which featured an article on this topic and she's here along with dr. donna gamora so we don't panic. good morning.

>> it does make you edgy. you see someone -- i've done it here in the halls here, why i see someone, i know them and their name is not coming to me.

>> for some of us, it has been a long-term thing anyway. so don't panic.

>> part of it is the aging process anyway. you lose some cognitive skills as you age.

>> there is a test for this. the way this test is designed is you look at 20 different faces on a computer and if no hair and no context. so you are just looking at this part of the face. you don't have to score a perfect score. what they found is people who scored less than 50% were more likely to have something called primary progressive efacie, an early form of dementia and it is rare. so if you take this test online and you have any results that alarm you, talk to your doctor. don't panic.

>> you can do this at home by doing something called name that famous face by looking at a magazine, have somebody cover the name of the person, of the celebrity, and then see if you can get that name.

>> and you get a point if you know.

>> that's not a fair test in my analysis because some people live in those celebrity magazines. they know everybody. other people find that a complete waste of time and are off reading dostevsky.

>> make sure you're not forgetting people's names who you see every day. or part of your daily life.

>> absolutely. let's talk about parkinson 's. there is not a great diagnosis for this.

>> we think about tremers, which happens. there are characteristics, some things that parkinson 's patients go through at the same time simultaneously. and one is a loss of smell, like especially a strong smell like garlic. and another is a very abnormal rem, the dream stage of sleep where you're fighting in your sleep or acting out.

>> a lot of people have that. how do you know if it is something serious.

>> this was based on a survey of people who had early parkinson 's disease. the third symptom they found which was very alarming is these patients tended to have bad constipation for 30 days or more. if you have bad constipation for three days or more, take something. but if you have all three together, that's really the warning sign and you --

>> and the change in the sense of smell . we know smell is actually associated with the first cranial nerve and the sense of smell becomes diminished before the other symptoms like tremors.

>> okay.

>> the third test is interesting, involves smelling peanut butter , my favorite food, actually.

>> it is a marker for that. and you need someone to help you with this, open up a jar of peanut butter , close your eyes , hold one nostril shut and have someone put it a foot away from you and move it closer and closer. when you smell it, say stop and do the reverse with the other nostril. and you want to be able to smell the peanut butter the same in both sides.

>> what if you have an adenoid or something?

>> that's the punch line . the punch line is, one of the things we say in medicine, when you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras. much more likely you could have allergies, a bad cold, an adenoid or deviated septum. mention it to your doctor at your next appointment.

>> nothing -- no cure for parkinson 's. no cure for alzheimer's. how much of an effect can this have on your life knowing already something you wouldn't have discovered?

>> parkinson 's there are medications where we can intervene early and other remedies. alzheimer's and, again, primary ppa, which is rare, you know, not a whole lot we can do early but there are some medications that have given earlier you can have a better outcome.

>> ladies, thank you so much.