Study finds that early memory loss can be a predictor of dementia

Experiencing memory loss early in life could be a cause for concern about dementia later in life.

Research from the University of Kentucky‘s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found that “self-reported memory loss is a strong predictor of clinical memory impairment later in life,” says a university press release. The study was published online Sept. 24 in the journal Neurology.

The research was led by Richard Kryscio, associate director of UK’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center. It involved 531 people with an average age of 73 and free of dementia, says the release. Participants were asked about changes in their memory in the prior year and were given an annual memory and thinking test for 10 years. After death, the participants’ brains were examined for evidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study found that 56 percent of the participants reported changes in their memory by age 82. This group was nearly three times more likely to develop memory and thinking problems. In all, about one in six participants developed dementia during the study, with 80 percent of that group reporting early changes in memory.

 “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,” Kryscio said in the press release. “That suggests that there may be a significant window of opportunity for intervention before a diagnosable problem shows up.”

Kryscio said in the release that while all memory issues should be reported to a doctor, there “isn’t cause for immediate alarm if you can’t remember where you left your keys.”

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