Memory-Loss Concerns Could Indicate Dementia Onset

Alzheimer dementia linked to early memory loss concerns reported by patients

(RxWiki News) Mild cognitive impairment and memory loss concerns are known risk factors for Alzheimer’s dementia. Until recently, however, the link between Alzheimer’s dementia, early memory concerns and impairment of memory performance had not been thoroughly explored.

A recent study shed light on the heightened risk of developing Alzheimer's dementia that patients with memory loss concerns or mild cognitive impairment may face.

The researchers said they believe that physicians should take reports of memory loss seriously, especially with elderly patients, as they are most at risk for developing Alzheimer’s dementia in later years. The early diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment is an important key for Alzheimer’s disease prevention.

"Seek medical care if you are experiencing memory loss."

Steffen Wolfsgruber, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Bonn in Germany, and colleagues conducted this study to measure the risk for occurrences of Alzheimer’s dementia in patients who have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.

The study examined 417 patients diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. Patients were recruited between 2003 and 2007 from 14 specialized university memory clinics for an observational study. Study participants were older than 50 and, after extensive testing, were classified into two categories: presence of mild cognitive impairment and absence of mild cognitive impairment.

Physicians and neuropsychologists assessed the participants annually for up to three years under a strict regime of tests used to identify those brain activities most often affected by Alzheimer’s dementia. These activities included verbal fluency, 10-item word list learning, figure copying, word list delayed recall, word list recognition and figure recall.

Of the 417 participants, 112 (26.9 percent) had an absence of mild cognitive impairment, and 305 (73.1 percent) were classified as having a presence of mild cognitive impairment.

The researchers noted a strong link between memory concerns and memory performance. Memory concerns were a strong predictor for the later development of Alzheimer’s dementia for patients with very mild cognitive impairment and declined in strength with increasing memory impairment.

Study participants found to have memory concerns were twice as likely to experience an onset of Alzheimer’s dementia as other participants.

The researchers found that the rate of Alzheimer’s dementia increased in patients who had memory concerns and had reported lower memory performance at the beginning of the study. Approximately 18 percent of the patients developed Alzheimer’s dementia within the first 27 months of the study.

The findings suggest that reporting memory concerns could be predictive of future Alzheimer's dementia onset.

The investigators noted some study limitations. Primarily, patients without mild cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study were excluded from the results, so the findings only applied to those with cognitive impairment. Secondly, the researchers only reported on memory concerns, while other cognitive concerns were not included. Also, the researchers did not have access to data on the duration of the memory concerns the patients were experiencing.

This research was published online in July 2014 by PLOS ONE.

This study was supported by a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The researchers reported conflicts of interest, including work for major pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Merz, Novartis and AstraZeneca.

Review Date: 
July 16, 2014