If It Looks Like Dementia, It Probably Is

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerJuly 25, 2014

Nearly 36 million people in the world have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, and the number is expected to triple in coming years. With no cure, the estimated life expectancy after a diagnosis is 4-8 years.

Two recent studies show how these devastating numbers are impacting the aging Boomer Generation. Learn more.

Seniors Over 60 Report Memory Loss

A recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 12.5% of the 59,000 individuals who took the survey reported some kind of worsening memory loss or confusion over the past 12 months. Of those 12.5%, one third said this memory loss interfered with their social life or work.

While it is difficult to draw conclusions from a subjective survey, some interesting trends revealed themselves:

  1. For seniors between the ages of 60 and 64, 12% reported memory loss and a staggering 45% said that their memory loss interfered with their daily life.
  2. In the 85 and older group, 38% felt their memory loss interfered with their daily life.
  3. For the 35% of those who reported memory loss, they discussed the issue with their doctor, meaning 65% did not. This suggests that there is still a powerful stigma surrounding dementia.

Matthew Baumgart, senior director of public policy for the Alzheimer’s Association said this of the survey: “When one in eight Americans 60-plus say they are having memory problems, then we continue to have a problem and things are not going to get better for the foreseeable future.”

The survey, first conducted in 2011, is the only one of it’s kind. Researchers hope to learn more about earlier Alzheimer’s detection and memory loss in this generation with continued surveys, as there is another 15 years before the last boomers hit age 60.

Self Diagnosis May Be A Predictor of Alzheimer’s

Those who reported memory loss in the survey from the CDC may have cause for concern. An international team has launched several individual studies that have found a link between those who self-reported memory loss and actual disease. They found that those who complained about memory loss often had a higher level of beta-amyloid, a protein commonly found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.

In one study, the team observed 200 healthy people and then asked them about any memory concerns. They then used PET scans to measure levels of beta-amyloid in the brain and found a correlation between the two. In another supporting study, researchers tracked 4,000 nurses and found that those with memory concerns were more likely to have the ApoE4 gene, which is the strongest known genetic marker of Alzheimer’s. 

Rebecca Amariglio, researcher in the neurology department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, believes self diagnosis may be the best predictor of the disease.

“Years before a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, the individual may be the best judge that his or her memory isn’t what it used to be.”

Have you or a loved one expressed memory concerns before a diagnoses of Alzheimer’s or dementia? Share your story with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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