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Is there a drug I can take to improve my memory? DR MARTIN SCURR answers your health questions

I am 81 years old and in good health, but my short-term memory is not good. Is there medication I can take?

David Woods, by email.

Problems with short-term memory are usually a normal part of ageing, but they can also be a sign of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

This is the state in between normal mental capacity and dementia. More than a quarter of people around your age — aged 80 to 84 — will have MCI, according to a review of 34 studies published by the American Academy of Neurology in 2018.

Some of those will go on to develop dementia, but there are steps you can take to minimise brain function worsening.

MCI is diagnosed with a series of tests to check if your memory and thinking skills are below the norm for someone of your age. It might also involve a brain scan.

Problems with short-term memory are usually a normal part of ageing, but they can also be a sign of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) [File photo]

Diagnosis can be a complex process as there are no standard tests, so it’s difficult to say what ‘normal’ is.

Those at greatest risk have risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, a history of stroke or heart disease and low mood.

Whether you have a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or not, the treatment is the same.

But, regrettably, no medication is proven to help — whether conventional drugs or herbal and nutritional supplements.

However, tackling risk factors is vital. This includes looking at any medications that might impair cognitive function. If you’re taking benzodiazepines (e.g. diazepam), anticholinergic antidepressants (e.g. amitriptyline), antihistamines (e.g. chlorphenamine) or opioids (e.g. codeine), this should be assessed by your GP to see if they can be stopped.

Diagnosis can be a complex process as there are no standard tests, so it’s difficult to say what ‘normal’ is [File photo]

Diagnosis can be a complex process as there are no standard tests, so it’s difficult to say what ‘normal’ is [File photo]

The focus then is looking after yourself. Ensure you’re sleeping properly — sleep is the time the brain clears out waste products that build up during waking hours, which are linked to Alzheimer’s.

Exercise is also important. In a number of small trials, exercise has been shown to improve both immediate and delayed recall.

Even a daily walk, as much as you can manage on a regular basis, will have a beneficial effect.

My partner has had cysts in his testicles for several years. He had surgery but they have come back. They’re not painful, but do they need to be monitored with regular scans?

Name and address supplied.

What you are describing are epididymal cysts — harmless, fluid-filled growths.

They can vary in number (some men will have just a single lump, while others have a cluster of several cysts, either within the scrotum or testicles) and in size (some grow to 2cm or more).

They develop in the epididymis, a coiled tube that lies at the exit of each testicle. Its job is to transport and store sperm cells, to allow them to mature. Why these cysts develop is not clear. One theory is that they could be triggered by inflammation after an infection, or they might be due to some sort of developmental abnormality.

Although epididymal cysts are relatively common, understandably, when you find them, it can cause alarm, the fear being it might be testicular cancer. And men are generally advised to have ultrasound scans to check them.

If there are multiple cysts, they’re usually removed in a short procedure performed as a day case in hospital (in some cases they can then recur).

But please be reassured, these cysts do not become cancerous or infected. So there is no need for a regular follow-up scan. However, I would always encourage men to check themselves regularly and to see their GP if they find a new lump they are concerned about.

My advice to your partner is to accept the current state of affairs — he only needs to seek further surgery if the recurrent cysts become a problem by virtue of their size and bulk.

Write to Dr Scurr

Write to Dr Scurr at Good Health, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London, W8 5HY or email drmartin@dailymail.co. uk — include your contact details. Replies should be taken in a general context and always consult your own GP with any health worries.

In my view… Double standards of gyms selling junk food! 

One of the UK’s large gym chains is run by a national organisation that is actually a healthcare charity.

Its aim — to build a healthier nation — is a noble intention. So why does the entrance to my branch have a big display of super-size bags of crisps for sale? And why, in the Glasgow branch, is there a machine selling cola, a flavoured sugar solution?

Sugar has no nutritional value, and is universally accepted as a contributor to the rising levels of obesity. If a gym must have a food outlet, at least open a cafe that has made a commitment to nutritional choices.

Gyms must stop these double standards and end the hypocrisy of putting exercise machines and junk food in the same setting.

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