Realizing You Are Having Memory Issues May Signal Brain Changes
Thinking that you may be experiencing memory loss? Experts are now believing that that may be the first clue that individuals may be developing plaques in their brain that are consistent to Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association is reporting that researchers are finding that the self-reported perception of memory and cognitive problems, known as subjective cognitive decline (SCD), is a potentially valid early clinical marker of changes in the brain as well as in thinking.
"The emerging field of SCD is of great interest in the Alzheimer's community, particularly among clinicians who are looking for new and reliable ways of identifying people at risk for Alzheimer's at the earliest possible stage," said Dr. Maria Carrillo, Alzheimer's Association vice president of medical and scientific relations, said in a press release.
The Alzheimer’s Association pointed to recent analysis by several research groups indicated that self-experienced decline in cognitive abilities in elderly people should be considered a risk factor for future dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This factor should be considered, even when these people perform normally on cognitive tests.
One study that was just presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference 2013 found a significant relationship between self-experienced concerns and changes in the brain, as evidenced by PET scans. The scans of 131 people, who were on average 73.5 years old, showed evidence of a buildup of beta-amyloid. Interestingly, these participants were otherwise clinically normal and had no history of serious neurological and psychiatric illness. The researchers also found that the study participants who reported having worse memory when compared to their peers were more likely to have higher beta-amyloid levels. Individuals who reported having difficulty with tasks that required prioritizing and organizing, which are considered higher-level thinking levels, also were found to have increased levels of beta-amyloid.
Researchers also found that the relationship between self-reported cognitive problems and evidence of brain changes that are consistent with Alzheimer’s is stronger in people who have higher levels or education and professional success. The researchers hypothesize that this is because these people may notice changes in their memory more readily. Subjective concerns about memory loss also are especially strong among people who are carriers of ApoE4, which is the strongest known genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
So what if you are sure that you’re having memory loss? I’d suggest two things.
The first is don't panic. There are multiple things that can cause memory loss, ranging from lack of sleep and stress to more serious health situations. And in some cases, memory loss can be reversed. For instance, my dad recently was showing short-term memory loss after being hospitalized a month ago. However, he recently was tested and aced the cognitive assessment. I’d suggest that his short-term memory loss might have been due to some of the health issues that caused him to be hospitalized.
Which brings me to the second point -- talk to your doctor about your concerns. That conversation will help your doctor begin to monitor any changes and also begin to determine whether your cognitive changes are, indeed, due to memory loss. Your doctor also can begin to work with you to develop a treatment plan to address your memory issues, whether through lifestyle changes or medications. And your doctor can help you get involved in a clinical trial about memory loss, if you are so inclined.
"Early detection is extremely important for the success of therapy trials, where earlier intervention may be the key to producing positive treatment and prevention results,” Carrillo said. “In addition, to obtain the greatest effect from newly approved therapies, and even lifestyle changes, we will want to administer those therapies as early as possible in the course of the disease. SCD may prove a valuable clinical complement to other early detection methods that employ genetics and biomarkers.”
Primary Source for This Sharepost:
Alzheimer’s Association. (2013). Subjective cognitive decline may be the earliest clinical indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2013.