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|Forgetful? You May Be Losing More Than Just Your Memory|
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Older adults who complain their "mind is going" may be losing a part of their brain along with their memory, according to a study published in the Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study, which looked at 120 people over the age of 60, found people who complained of significant memory problems but still had normal performance on memory tests had reduced gray matter density in their brains even though they weren't diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a transition stage between normal aging and the more serious problems caused by Alzheimer's disease.
When compared to healthy individuals, the study found people who complained of significant memory problems had a three-percent reduction in gray matter density in an area known to be important for memory; there was a four-percent reduction among individuals diagnosed with MCI.
"Significant memory loss complaints may indicate a very early "pre-MCI" stage of dementia for some people. This is important since early detection will be critical as new disease modifying medications are developed in an effort to slow and ultimately prevent Alzheimer's disease," said study author Andrew Saykin, PsyD, Professor of Psychiatry and Radiology at Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and an affiliate member of the American Academy of Neurology.
While normal aging, MCI and Alzheimer's disease have been associated with the loss of gray matter in the brain, this is believed to be the first study to quantitatively examine the severity of cognitive complaints in older adults and directly assess the relationship to gray matter loss.
Saykin says the findings highlight the importance of cognitive complaints in older adults, and suggest that those who complain of significant memory problems should be evaluated and closely monitored over time. Memory complaints, a cardinal feature of MCI which confers high risk for Alzheimer's disease, are reported in 25 to 50-percent of the older adult population.
The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, the Alzheimer's Association, the Hitchcock Foundation, the Ira DeCamp Foundation, the National Science Foundation, New Hampshire Hospital and the National Alliance for Medical Image Computing.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 19,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com/.
Reference: September 12, 2006, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
About Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a slowly progressive disease of the brain that is characterized by impairment of memory and eventually by disturbances in reasoning, planning, language, and perception. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, which afflicts 24 million people worldwide. Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging and is not something that inevitably happens in later life. It is rarely seen before the age of 65. The likelihood of having Alzheimer's disease increases substantially after the age of 70 and may affect around 50% of persons over the age of 85.
About Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment is a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia, according to background information in the article. Previous studies have found an association between mild cognitive impairment and diabetes. Poor blood glucose control over time may lead to neuron loss, and diabetes is associated with heart disease and stroke, which also may increase the risk of cognitive impairment.
Dementia is a progressive brain dysfunction (in Latin 'dementia' means irrationality), which results in a restriction of daily activities and in most cases leads in the long term to the need for care. Many diseases can result in dementia, the most common one being Alzheimer's disease .
The probability of suffering from dementia increases with advancing age. Dementia predominantly occurs in the second half of our life, often after the age of 65. The frequency of dementia increases with rising age from less than 2 % for the 65-69-year-olds, to 5 % for the 75-79 year-olds and to more than 20 % for the 85-89 year-olds. Every third person over 90 years of age suffers from moderate or severe dementia . About half of those affected by dementia suffer from Alzheimer's disease.
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