Memory often worsens with age — it is a normal part of the aging process.
But, when do mild memory problems signal the onset of Alzheimer’s?
Ironically, people who realise their memory is getting worse are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, new research finds.
Self-awareness, then, is a healthy sign.
Doctors have long suspected that people who seem unaware of their memory problems are at higher risk of dementia, but this is one of the first studies to demonstrate it.
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, looked at data from 450 patients experiencing mild memory deficits.
The patients’ experience of their own memory was compared with the objective views of friends and family.
Patients unaware of their memory problems turned out to be in worse shape neurologically: they had metabolic dysfunction in their brains and more amyloid proteins (these are linked to Alzheimer’s).
Two years later, patients who were more unaware of their memory problems were at triple the risk of developing dementia.
Dr Serge Gauthier, study co-author, said:
“This has practical applications for clinicians: people with mild memory complaints should have an assessment that takes into account information gathered from reliable informants, such as family members or close friends.”
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The study was published in the journal Neurology (Therriault et al., 2018).