Have you ever gone up the stairs and then forgotten why? Have you ever had trouble following the plot and characters in a movie or television show? Do you often forget where you’ve placed your keys or frequently get lost in surroundings that are familiar to you? If you’ve experienced these issues and have discussed them with your physician only to be brushed off as “scatterbrained,” you may be in for some bad news. USA Today reports multiple new studies have found that a poor memory may be the first warning sign you’re headed for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
However, experts are quick to point out that not everyone who has infrequent struggles with memory problems will get dementia or Alzheimer’s. Rather, people should be aware of a pattern, or consistent problems with their memory. This is especially true for people over the age of 60 or anyone who has a family history of the disease.
The study findings are particularly meaningful for those who have a chance to self-identify as having a poor memory. Medicines for Alzheimer’s are usually effective only when given at the earliest onset of the disease, or even before it has a chance to develop at all. These new findings could pave the way for those with poor memory to have a discussion with their doctors, and for physicians to take those patients seriously. The studies have uncovered a link between patients who self-reported memory issues to their physicians and patients who went on to develop brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
USA today reports that researcher and neuropsychologist Rebecca Amariglio was able to identify changes in the brains of people who showed no direct symptoms of Alzheimer’s but who self-reported as having a decline in memory. Her team performed brain scans of senior citizens and found that the people who self-identified as having a poor memory also had more of a type of protein that is linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
Amariglio says that being able to identify these types of patients as early as possible in the disease progression could lead to more effective treatments because researchers will have a much larger pool of people from which to draw for studies.
Another one of the studies showed that people who were more worried about their poor memories were more likely to have genetic risk factors for dementia. An additional, more widespread study showed that those who were more concerned about poor memory and other “executive functions” were 80% more likely to actually have some form of brain disease.
The lesson in all of this? Trust yourself. No one knows your own body better than you do. Work with your personal family physician in discussing poor memory and be honest about your concerns, especially of you have any family history of the disease. Knowing the early warning sign for Alzheimer’s can be critical in getting identified and being treated early, which will improve your chances for a more positive outcome. Poor memory is an early warning sign for dementia and Alzheimer’s but new strides are being made every day in the field of Alzheimer’s research.
By: Rebecca Savastio
Source: USA Today