Self-reports of Memory Loss may Help Predict Alzheimer’s Years Before Diagnosis

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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memory loss in Alzheimer's

memory loss in Alzheimer'sPatients who claim to suffer memory loss may in fact be experiencing the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and may come to suffer from clinical memory impairment years later, according to a recent research conducted at the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. The study confirmed the importance of self-reports from patients as a potential early indicator of the development of the disease, which can help physicians intervene years before the symptoms of the disease appear.

The study, led by Richard Kryscio, PhD, chairman of the department of Biostatistics and associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Kentucky, analyzed the reports of 531 people with an average age of 73 without dementia, in which they were asked to identify any changes in their memory observed the year before. The scientists also conducted annual memory and thinking tests over the course of ten years and analyzed the patients’ brains after their deaths.

The researchers concluded that the 56% of the patients who reported memory loss, at an average age of 82, were nearly three times more likely to suffer from memory and thinking problems than the ones who didn’t report any changes. One in each six patients enrolled in the study developed dementia, and 80 percent of them had reported memory losses.

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“What’s notable about our study is the time it took for the transition from self-reported memory complaint to dementia or clinical impairment, about 12 years for dementia and nine years for clinical impairment, after the memory complaints began,” said the lead researcher. “That suggests that there may be a significant window of opportunity for intervention before a diagnosable problem shows up.”

Kryscio believes that the study provides important information about how self-reported memory complaints can be predictive of cognitive impairment later in life. Despite the fact there may no relationship, he recommends that “someone with memory issues should report it to their doctor so they can be followed.” “Unfortunately, however, we do not yet have preventative therapies for Alzheimer’s disease or other illnesses that cause memory problems,” he added.