Memory Issues Could Predict Alzheimer’s

Regardless of your age, there are certain periods when we struggle to remember things. This is especially true when we’re under stress.

As you get older, however, if you begin to experience symptoms of memory loss, one thing often comes to mind, forcing you to think — is it dementia?

It’s tough not to think this way, considering approximately 5.5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease — but this type of mentality could actually benefit your prognosis.

The Dangers of Ignoring Memory Loss

According to a new Canadian study, just because you struggle to remember things, doesn’t automatically mean that you are suffering from dementia. If, however, an individual is unaware of the memory loss they experience, ignoring their symptoms, this could predict Alzheimer’s.

When someone experiences memory loss, their symptoms may be influenced by a wide range of factors. A classic example is memory loss due to depression and anxiety — or even a nutritional deficiency. Based on this study, it’s not the memory loss that’s an issue, but a lack of awareness.

Anosognosia, is simply a deficit of awareness, and in this case, individuals would experience impaired awareness regarding their current condition. When compared to age-related memory impairment, for instance, individuals are generally mindful that their memory is slipping.

What this recent study found, was that when patients exhibit anosognosia in regards to their memory, this could be a predictor of Alzheimer’s. Associated with reduced brain metabolism, not being aware of your symptoms could have a negative effect on clinical outcomes and may predict the conversion from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s.

Here are some of the study highlights:

  • Studying 1,062 participants from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative database, 191 were classified as having Alzheimer’s; 499 were said to have mild cognitive impairment (MCI); and an additional 372 were healthy.

  • Analyses were performed in order to assess the relationship between anosognosia and FDG-PET. An FDG-PET is simply a PET scan that uses a tracer known as fluorodeoxyglucose to show the difference between healthy and unhealthy tissue. Although this scan can be used to determine tumors and obstructed blood flow to the heart, it’s often used to help diagnose brain disorders.

  • The researchers also looked at the MCI group to determine if anosognosia was a predictor of Alzheimer’s.

  • What they found, was that hypometabolism (a low metabolic rate) was associated with anosognosia in individuals with Alzheimer’s, specifically within the right angular gyrus and posterior cingulate cortex. Anosognosia was also associated with the conversion from MDI to Alzheimer’s within a 5-year period.

  • Meaning, an absence of anosognosia (or being aware that you ARE suffering from mild memory loss), may be useful in a clinical setting when aiming to identify patients who are unlikely to convert from MCI to Alzheimer’s.

I Am Suffering From Slight Memory Loss — What Could It Be?

The above research is still in its infancy, so there is still a lot more work to be done. With that being said, it does provide some insight regarding those who are currently tossing and turning at night, worrying that their recent memory problems will be detrimental to their future health.

Have you recently misplaced your car keys, more than once? Perhaps you blanked on an acquaintance’s name, which is out of character for you? Although these incidents can make you begin to think the worst, you may not have anything to worry about.

Forgetfulness becomes more apparent as we age — just as our eyesight tends to worsen. It’s one of those things, and unfortunately, you know what they say, “time waits for no man.”

From normal age-related memory to the stresses of work, you do not need to automatically think the worst. If you are experiencing memory loss, there are numerous cases of reversible dementia, including:

  • Delirium — in this case, changes tend to develop quickly (sometimes in a matter of days or weeks); whereas dementia tends to evolve over months or even years. Your level of consciousness may become cloudy, which is not typically associated with dementia. With that being said, cases of delirium are still serious, and are considered to be a medical emergency.

  • Depression — when suffering from depression, individuals can become forgetful and disorientated. Similarly, those taking antidepressants may experience issues with their memory due to the side effects of their medication.

  • Nutritional deficiencies — this is particularly the case for low levels of vitamin B12, resulting in what’s known as pernicious anemia. This condition generally begins with symptoms such as confusion, apathy, and irritability, but may also result in balance issues, headaches, and yellowish skin.

From a potential thyroid disease to hematomas, there are a number of possible irreversible causes of dementia. This is why it’s imperative that you get checked out the moment you notice something isn’t quite right. Speak with your doctor and seek peace-of-mind.

You can also take advantage of resources and tools, including the BrainTest cognitive screening instrument, a scientifically-validated app that helps individuals detect the potential early warning signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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