55KRC: UC expert discusses dementia following Bruce Willis diagnosis

The University of Cincinnati’s Rhonna Shatz, DO, recently joined 55KRC’s Simply Medicine radio show and podcast following the announcement that actor Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. 

Willis disclosed in 2022 that he had been diagnosed with aphasia, a language disorder that can look like problems with word choice or grammar. While not commenting directly on Willis’s case, Shatz said aphasia is often the first presenting symptom of a more specific neurological disorder.

“It’s not unusual for people in their 40s and 50s and 60s to have diseases like Alzheimer’s disease presenting with a language disorder, something we call primary progressive aphasia,” said Shatz, adjunct associate professor, division director for behavioral neurology, and the Bob and Sandy Heimann Endowed Chair in Research and Education in Alzheimer’s Disease in the UC College of Medicine and a UC Health physician.

Willis is 67 years old, and Shatz said symptoms of dementia can be different in younger populations compared to the “traditional” first symptom of memory loss.

Shatz said people should schedule an appointment as soon as they notice any sort of change that’s neurologically “different than you’re used to.”

“Whether it’s more effort in doing usual things, if it’s feeling like you’re just not as sharp as you used to be, it’s harder to come up with words or even harder to keep track of things, the thing to know is you need it checked out,” she said.

Listen to the Simply Medicine segment. (Note: Segment begins around 25:46 mark.)

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