Memory Decline May Be Earliest Sign of Alzheimer's

    31 July, 2013


    From VOA learning English, this is the Health Report.
    You wake up early one morning to make a meal to take to work and then you forget it. Has this ever happened to you? Or you see your next door neighbour someone you know well but you can not remember his name. Your family doctor says it is nothing to worry about, just a part of getting old. Well, that is true, it might not be the whole story.

    At a conference two weeks ago, researchers said they now have proof that self-reported minor memory loss sometimes led to greater mental decline six years later. The Alzheimer's Association organized the event.
    Rebecca Amariglio is a neuropsychologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. She found that individuals who worried about their memory will more likely to suffer a loss of mental ability. Her research shows that such persons were likely to have a protein called beta-amyloid in the brain. Beta-amyloid is suspected of being at least partly involved with Alzheimer's disease.

    Evidence that the disease develops for an unknown period of time before experts recognize it is leading to a new area of study. It is called subjective cognitive decline. It involves people who sense that their memory and thinking skills are failing before others realize it.
    Experts want to inform the public that most people who worry about their mental decline do not develop dementia -- the most commonm form of Alzheimer's. What they are experiencing is truly natural and normal aging.
    Ronald Petersen is a member of the Alzhermer's Association National Board. He says people should be tested if they fear they might have the disease. Doctor Petersen says it is important that subjective cognitive decline be recognized. In his words, it can be a wake-up call for doctors.
    "So the doctors do not dismiss somebody when they come in, say, eg. 'Doctor, my memory isn't quite what it used to be.'  Again, doesn't mean it's Alzheimer's Diseaser. But it does suggest the physician that he or she needs to ask few more probing questions."
    He says doctors might ask patients about other issues, like any medicines they are taking and whether they suffer from anxiety, depression or stress. He says all those things can cause changes in memory. At the same time, he says, memory loss could be an early sign of something more serious.
    Doctor Peterson describes the recognition of subjective cognitive decline as an important change that will help doctors identify who might be at risk. That way, when therapies are developed, the eariler doctors intervene, the more likely these treatments might be effective. Right now, there is no way to cure Alzheimer's.
    And that's the Health Report from VOA Learning English, I'm Karen Leggett.