If your memory feels like it’s not what it once was, it could mean future dementia

In a new study, researchers have shown that certain memory concerns by older adults are predictive of future dementia.

They found that when older adults go to their doctors with memory-specific subjective cognitive complaints it would be wise to take it seriously as they may predict future dementia.

The findings highlight the importance of doctors in listening to their older people in relation to memory.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of New South Wales.

Subjective cognitive complaints refer to an individual’s self-experience of cognitive decline.

Research recently suggests that these subjective complaints may be the earliest detectible stage of preclinical dementia.

According to the team, subjective cognitive complaints have the potential to capture everyday memory problems that are not always detected by clinical tests.

They can refer to specific changes in memory ability or changes in other cognitive domains like language or processing speed.

This research extends from previous work which examined the link between self-reported memory or other cognitive concerns and those provided by family or friends, known as informants.

The team assessed 873 older adults without dementia when first assessed.

The study also surveyed 843 informants who knew participants well enough to comment on changes in participants’ cognitive abilities.

They found memory-specific cognitive complaints were linked to the rate of cognitive decline.

If an informant noted that the person had poorer memory, six years later the team found a decline in memory and executive function (planning, understanding, abstract thinking).

The risk of dementia at follow-up was also greater if participants complained about poorer memory or if their informant noted changes in memory and non-memory types of cognition.

The findings emphasized the importance of an older adult’s subjective presentations and the relevance of the perceptions of informants in relation to predicting cognitive decline.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Katya Numbers from UNSW’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA).

The study is published in PLOS ONE.

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