Memory loss is believed to be a traditional first sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but some middle-aged people and seniors might at first experience different cognitive issues such as trouble with problem solving or language impediments, a large U.S. research suggests.
Scientists analyzed data on symptoms for more than 8,000 Alzheimer’s patients and discovered one in four people who were under age 60 had a major complaint unrelated to memory, even if memory was still the most spread problem overall.
“Non-memory first cognitive symptoms were more common in younger Alzheimer’s disease patients. Tests which explore and investigate these non-memory cognitive problems should be used so that non-memory deficits are not overlooked,” said lead study author Josephine Barnes, a researcher at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London.
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease than affects memory and thinking skills. The disorder affects people’s abilities to carry out simple tasks like eating or dressing. In addition to this, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia in older adults, and it affects around 5 million Americans, according to the data published by the National Institutes of Health.
Inside the brain, Alzheimer’s is linked with abnormal clumps called amyloid plaques and also with tangled bundles of fibers, which are often called tangles. Researchers suspect that the damage starts in the hippocampus, a zone of the brain which is responsible with memory.
Barnes and fellow researchers analyzed neurological test reports from a huge U.S. database of Alzheimer’s patients to observe whether the early symptoms differed by age.
Patients were, on average, 75 years old when they first required treatment for Alzheimer’s, even if they ranged 36 years old to 110. Most of the patients had experienced mild to moderate dementia.
Among the patients who said they encountered cognitive difficulties as their first sign of Alzheimer’s, the proportion reporting something other than memory dropped with increasing age. One in five patients in their sixties announced they had difficulties unrelated to memory, but this shrunk to one in 10 for people in their seventies.
Because Alzheimer’s can only be diagnosed after a person’s death by looking for plaque and tangles on the brain in an autopsy, this research like others exploring the disorder is exposed to the risk of taking into account at least some patients who don’t actually suffer from the condition, the authors said in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
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