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Study: Memory problems may start three years before dementia diagnosis

August 27, 2015
by Megan Combs, Associate Editor
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New research makes the case for why more early intervention is needed when it comes to dementia diagnosis: Residents can start losing awareness of their memory problems as many as three years before they're officially diagnosed. The study was published in Neurology.

"Our findings suggest that unawareness of one's memory problems is an inevitable feature of late-life dementia, driven by a buildup of dementia-related changes in the brain," study author Robert Wilson, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Ill., said in an American Academy of Neurology press release. "Most studies of memory unawareness in dementia have focused on people who have already been diagnosed. In contrast, this new study began following older adults before they showed signs of dementia."

The study also found several dementia-related brain changes are associated with a decline in memory awareness. It included 2,092 people from studies that have followed older adults for more than 10 years. At the beginning of the study, most participates were 76 years or older and had no signs of cognitive impairments. They were given yearly memory tests and were asked how often they remembered things.

“This study underscores the importance of family members looking for help from doctors and doctors getting information from friends or family when making decisions about whether a person has dementia, since people may be unable to give reliable reports about the history of their own memory and thinking abilities,” Wilson said in the press release.

Read more about the study here.

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