Memory Loss: When Should you Report it?

Cognitive impairment issues should be discussed with doctors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Some changes in memory are expected as we age, but when should memory changes be assessed by a doctor? The answer may be that you know your mind the best.

A recent report found that almost half the people reporting they had memory problems were diagnosed with cognitive impairment.

Telling a doctor about memory symptoms can’t hurt, and it may lead to earlier diagnosis, which may lead to more treatment options.

"Tell your doctor about any changes in memory."

Professor Onesimo Juncos-Rabadán, and colleagues at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, looked at factors related to a diagnosis of cognitive impairment.

Cognitive impairment means a loss of thinking skills and memory that can result from multiple health problems.

The researchers talked with 580 people, aged 50 and older, who visited clinics with memory complaints but no history of dementia. They used the Mini Mental State Exam and other cognitive tests to look for cognitive impairment.

Other factors like mood, daily activities and reading habits were also noted.

The study found that 46.2 percent of people had some form of cognitive impairment. So, about half of the patients, all of whom reported memory problems, were diagnosed with cognitive impairment.

When the researchers looked at the factors that might be related to a diagnosis of cognitive impairment, they found that self-reported memory loss was the biggest predictor.

Also linked to a diagnosis of cognitive impairment were: older age, lower levels of daily activities and decreased reading habits.

The authors concluded that older patients who report memory loss can be an important sign of cognitive impairment.

dailyRx spoke with Dr. Charles Bernick, the Associate Medical Director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, who has 20 years of experience in Alzheimer’s research.

He said, “It can be very difficult to know when one is crossing the line between normal forgetfulness and the start of a disease process.”

Dr. Bernick noted that some forgetfulness is normal but that, when it happens more often or becomes more severe, the changes should be shared with a doctor. He said, “I think change is the key, and if symptoms are becoming progressively worse, they warrant at least an evaluation by a physician.”

This study found a link between reading activities and cognitive impairment.

When asked about this finding, Dr. Bernick said that it is unclear what role mental activities play in dementia.

He said, “Because diseases like Alzheimer’s may begin 15 years or more before someone becomes obviously symptomatic, is a decrease in reading and activities simply an early manifestation of the disease process rather than somehow influencing the disease?”

This study was published June 4 in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders. Conflict of interest information was not available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 24, 2012
Last Updated:
February 25, 2013