Don’t Worry so Much About Your Memory Loss

Are you concerned about your memory loss, about how much you forget? Then get a little happier, because your awareness of memory problems probably means you’re OK — at least for now.

New research published Aug. 26 in the journal Neurology studied 239 people drawn from several other larger study populations and found that those with the onset of significant dementia, no matter what its cause, forget that they are forgetting things. They gradually drift into a state in which they are unaware of the problem.

That result helps explain another phenomenon that has long puzzled gerontologists: Why don’t people who are seriously losing their memory get depressed? The answer seems to be that they are unaware of the malady.

The study also suggests that physicians should include cognitive tests as part of yearly examinations to track awareness of memory difficulties. Understanding when to intervene in a patient’s memory is a tricky business, but when a patient who has been worrying for years about memory loss suddenly stops worrying, it can be a significant clue.

From an original group of 2,092 participants in the study, researchers focused in on 239 patients who had developed dementia and who had been through at least four annual evaluations of cognitive abilities. Exams included clinical evaluation of cognitive abilities as well as performance tests and questions that probed how well the individual thought they were doing remembering things. A key finding was that patients showed a drop-off in their awareness of declining memory about two–three years before the onset of dementia.

The study’s authors also looked at autopsies of those who died and found support for the concept that dementia is a natural process for humans. Scientists are honing in on the causes of memory decline, including more knowledge about the protein TDP-43, tangles and gross cerebral infarcts. TDP-43 is found abnormally in ALS disease, but it is also found in the autopsies of all very old people.

Research suggests that although people vary widely as to when they begin developing dementia, if you live long enough, you will experience it.

To your health and wealth,

Stephen L. Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

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