A poor score on a simple memory test may signal Alzheimer’s disease

Credit: Andrea Piacquadio / pexels

The brain is an amazing and complex organ that helps us think, remember, and learn.

Unfortunately, as we age, the brain can start to decline, and we may experience problems with memory and thinking. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of cognitive decline that affects millions of people around the world.

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but researchers are working hard to find ways to detect and prevent it.

In a recent study, researchers looked at a simple memory test that could help detect early signs of cognitive decline. The test involved showing people pictures of items and giving them cues about the item’s category.

Then, participants were asked to remember the items, first on their own, then with the category cues for any items they did not remember.

This type of controlled learning helps with the mild memory retrieval problems that occur in many healthy elderly people but does not have much impact on memory for people with dementia.

The study involved over 4,000 people with an average age of 71 who had no cognitive problems. Participants were divided into five groups based on their scores on the test, or stages zero through four.

Stages zero through two reflect increasing difficulty with retrieving memories or items learned and precede dementia by five to eight years.

In these stages, people have increasing trouble remembering the items on their own, but they continue to be able to remember items when given cues.

In the third and fourth stages, people cannot remember all of the items even after they are given cues. These stages precede dementia by one to three years.

The researchers also looked at brain scans of the participants to see if they had beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, which are markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

They found that people who tested in the third and fourth stages were likely to have higher amounts of beta-amyloid in their brains than people in the lower stages.

They were also more likely to have a lower volume in the hippocampus and other areas of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s pathology.

These findings suggest that this test can be used to improve our ability to detect cognitive decline in the stage before people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

It could also help by narrowing down those who already have signs of Alzheimer’s in the brain with a simple test rather than expensive or invasive scans or lumbar punctures.

While this study is promising, it’s important to note that the participants had a high level of education, so the results may not be applicable to the general population.

Additionally, having a poor score on the memory test does not necessarily mean that a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

However, the test could be a useful tool in identifying people who may be at risk for cognitive decline and could benefit from further evaluation and intervention.

How to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Preventing Alzheimer’s disease involves taking steps to maintain a healthy brain and reduce risk factors. Here are some ways to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease:

Stay physically active: Exercise can improve blood flow to the brain and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Stay mentally active: Engage in activities that challenge your brain, such as reading, playing games, and learning new things.

Manage chronic conditions: Keep conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol under control, as they can increase the risk of cognitive decline.

Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can contribute to cognitive decline, so aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use: Both smoking and excessive alcohol use can damage the brain and increase the risk of cognitive decline.

Stay socially active: Socializing with friends and family can help keep the brain active and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Manage stress: Chronic stress can contribute to cognitive decline, so it’s important to manage stress through techniques like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing.

While there is no surefire way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, taking these steps can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and promote healthy aging.

It’s also important to talk to your doctor about your individual risk factors and any concerns you may have about cognitive decline.

If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about the root cause of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s, and 5 steps to protect against Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that herb rosemary could help fight COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s, and results showing these antioxidants could help reduce the risk of dementia.

The study was published in Neurology.

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