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Study: Alzheimer's Harder to Spot Past Age 80

Subtle Alzheimer’s Signs in People Over 80 May Go Unnoticed

80+ Fastest-Growing Population continued...

In the older participants, there was less difference in memory and other measures of cognitive function between people with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and people in the same age group without a diagnosis than in the younger age group.

The older Alzheimer’s patients also showed less severe thinning of portions of the cerebral cortex and the overall cerebrum than the younger patients when compared to healthy peers.

Bondi says this is not surprising because decreases in the thickness of these areas of the brain have been found to occur with normal aging.

The study appears online today in the journal Neurology.

‘Studies Should Focus on Oldest Old’

Bondi adds that the findings underscore the importance of considering age when testing for Alzheimer’s.

Boston University associate professor of neurology Rhoda Au, PhD, says understanding differences in mental declines as they relate to age will become even more important as better treatments for Alzheimer’s disease emerge.

She adds that because people in their 80s and older have traditionally been excluded from clinical trials, it is not surprising that differences between the older old and the younger old are only now being recognized.

In an editorial published with the study, Au notes that given the aging of the population, researchers must increase their efforts to improve diagnosis, care, and treatment of the oldest old.

“It is clear that the oldest old are different, and that some of the assumptions that we make in younger patients may not apply to these people,” Au tells WebMD.

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