Who’s more at risk for eventual Alzheimer’s disease: someone who’s aware of having memory problems or someone who has no idea that they are forgetful?
It just seems so logical that a person who has insight into their short-term memory issues is less likely to develop Alzheimer’s in the near future than is someone who does not realize they have problems with their short-term memory.
However, this premise has now been verified, thanks to scientists at McGill University.
Prior to the study, though, there was an interesting saying going around: “If you think you have Alzheimer’s disease, you probably don’t.”
But don’t take this to mean that if someone is aware of their worsening memory problems that this insight can rule out Alzheimer’s or eventual dementia.
When a person with a brain condition doesn’t realize there’s a problem, this is called anosognosia. It’s often a part of Alzheimer’s disease.
A paper in Neurology (Feb. 2018) points out that people who have anosognosia have almost a threefold increase in the chances of developing dementia – within two years.
How the Study Was Done
• Lead study author Joseph Therriault analyzed data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative.
• The data consisted of 450 patients who had mild memory issues but also still had the ability of self-care.
• The patients had been asked to rate their mental abilities.
• Close relatives of these subjects also filled out surveys to rate cognitive abilities of the subjects.
• There were subjects who reported no cognitive problems but whose relatives reported otherwise. These subjects were deemed to have poor awareness.
• The poor-awareness group (anosognosia) was compared to those who had insight.
• Those with anosognosia had higher rates of amyloid deposition. Amyloid is the protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
• A follow-up two years later revealed that the poor-awareness group were more likely to have eventually been diagnosed with dementia.