Elderly people who are experiencing memory lapses are more likely to be diagnosed with dementia later on, according to new research. It suggests those with memory complaints are three times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment within nine years; within 12 years, 80 percent had full-blown dementia. Study author Richard Kryscio, associate director of University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, said, “I would say if you’re an elderly person and you’re noticing serious changes in your memory, you should take it seriously, but it’s certainly not a cause for immediate alarm.”
Evaluating more than 500 seniors, the researchers followed them for more than 10 years asking about any noticeable changes in their memory and had them take memory and thinking tests. Of the 500, 243 passed away and after death, their brains showed signs of Alzheimer’s disease during autopsies. In the rest of the participants, 56 percent reported memory lapses overall, at an average age of 82. The findings also showed those carrying the gene associated with Alzheimer’s had double the odds of experiencing brain impairment, as well as smokers took less time to transition to mild cognitive impairment.
Dr. Anton Porsteinsson, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research and Education Program at University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York, called the study “well thought-out.” “The challenge here, in terms of interventions, is that there is no single thing that offers a solution,” Porsteinsson added. “But for now, for people who do feel their memory is changing in a consistent or significant way, it makes sense for them to at least bring this up with their health care provider and consider whether some changes in lifestyle can contribute to healthy cognitive aging.”