Memory problems in seniors could signal lower cognitive function, study reports

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Seniors with complaints about short-term memory gaps, such as difficulty recalling recent events, might be experiencing more than just age-related changes, according to researchers. They say their new study findings could lead to new protocols for clinicians treating seniors with memory problems.

In assessments conducted via phone interviews with 16,964 older women with an average age of 74, investigators asked participants seven memory-related questions. The researchers, from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, found that individuals with the most memory-related complaints had lower levels of cognitive function.

"These findings suggest that clinicians may need to differentiate between the types of memory complaints their patients have, as some are likely due to normal aging, whereas others are worrisome for possible cognitive decline," said study co-author Rebecca Amariglio, M.D.”

The study suggests that primary care physicians should incorporate more cognitive function screenings into annual wellness appointments with elderly patients. Given that the number of U.S. adults turning 65 is expected to double within the next 20 years, experts predict the incidence of Alzheimer's and other types of dementia will surge. The study was published last week in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.