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Memory Worries May Be Early Sign of Alzheimer's

Although studies didn't prove connection, expert says concerns are worth mentioning to a doctor

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The findings all raise the possibility that evaluating memory complaints could help doctors spot older adults at increased risk of dementia. But Snyder said it's too soon to say for sure.

"We don't know yet how this all could be used as a potential tool," Snyder said.

Amariglio agreed. She said the questionnaire from her study is not ready for doctors to use in everyday practice. Instead, it might help researchers find candidates for ongoing clinical trials that are studying drugs or lifestyle measures to hopefully slow down Alzheimer's progression.

Right now, there is no known way to prevent or delay Alzheimer's. But if researchers do find such a therapy, Amariglio said, a questionnaire that helps spot older adults at risk would become very important.

For now, Snyder recommended that older adults who notice changes in their mental acuity tell their doctors. "If there's a concern, you can be further evaluated," she said.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and experts estimate that if no progress is made in delaying or preventing the disease, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's could triple by 2050, to nearly 14 million.

Along with the emotional toll for families, there is the cost of caring for people with Alzheimer's. A recent study estimated that in 2010, the United States spent up to $215 billion on care for people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

Because the new studies were presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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