Memory Complaints in Women May Portend Cognitive Impairment

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Women aged 65 and older who complain of poor memory may be at a greater risk for cognitive impairment nearly two decades later.

Alison Kaup, PhD, of the University of California-San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center, and colleagues examined 1,107 older women who did not have dementia at study outset. At that time, 8% of women described having memory problems, defined as being serious enough to be noticed by the subject but not enough to be picked up by standard memory tests.

The women were asked the same “yes” or “no” question several times over an 18-year period: “Do you feel you have more problems with memory than most?” Those who expressed memory complaints at baseline had a 70% greater risk of being diagnosed with a memory disorder nearly 20 years later, the researchers reported in the journal Neurology.

Also, women who reported memory problems 10 years before the end of the study were 90% more likely to be diagnosed with a cognitive impairment, compared with those who reported no memory problems.

“Our results suggest that dementia prevention research trials should target older women with [subjective memory complaints] as a high-risk group, in order to attempt to intervene among those who may be showing the earliest symptoms of neurodegeneration,” the researchers wrote.

Memory Complaints in Women May Portend Cognitive Impairment
Older women who expressed memory complaints at baseline had a 70% greater risk of being diagnosed with a memory disorder nearly 20 years later.

Older women who complain of poor memory may be at greater risk for cognitive impairment almost 20 years later, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.

Study coauthor Alison Kaup, PhD, of the University of California-San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center, notes that previous studies have suggested memory complaints among older women can be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease or other memory and thinking disorders.

The memory problems of each participant were assessed with one question asked several times over an 18-year period: "Do you feel you have more problems with memory than most?" Participants were required to answer with a "yes" or "no."

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