What does it mean when short-term memory starts to decline in your early 1950s? Scientists don’t have good news about it. According to the latest research, problems with short-term memory at this age may indicate later dementia.
A decline in short-term memory in old age is considered a risk factor for dementia in science. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg University and the Saarland Cancer Registry have now examined whether this also applies in middle age, i.e. from around 50 years of age.
For the analyzes, the research team used data from a total of 6,190 participants aged 50 to 75 who were included in the ESTHER cohort study between 2000 and 2002. Participants used a questionnaire to provide information about their subjectively perceived short and long-term memory abilities (subjective cognitive decline; SCD).
The risk of dementia doubles
Analysis shows that subjects who reported short-term memory problems had up to twice the risk of developing dementia later than the rest of the group. This connection was most evident for vascular dementia (also known colloquially as calcification), the data also revealed indications of a later Alzheimer’s disease. The same goes for long-term memory problems. Here, the researchers found no link to dementia.
“Subjectively perceived short-term memory problems may indicate an increased risk of dementia in people over the age of 50 – and this many years before the diagnosis is made,” summarizes Hermann Brenner of the DKFZ. “Our observations underscore the importance of early preventive measures to avoid vascular disease, which is responsible for at least some of the diseases of dementia.”
Depression increases the risk
According to the data, the risk of late dementia was higher when depression was present in addition to short-term memory problems. Depression itself is a risk factor for dementia. “If both factors occur together, the risk for those affected of developing dementia thereafter increases significantly,” says Brenner. “Timely preventive measures would therefore be particularly important for these people.”
Die Studie “Short-term subjective memory difficulties at the age of 50-75 predict the risk of dementia in a community-based cohort followed for over 17 years” wurde soeben im Fachmagazin “Age and Aging 2022 publiziert.