Memory Lapses in Seniors Indicates High Risk of Dementia Diagnosis

(HealthDay News) — Elderly subjects in good health that begin to report memory lapses and those carrying the APOE ε4 allele are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with dementia in roughly the next decade, according to a study published online in Neurology.

Richard Kryscio, PhD, from the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging in Lexington, and colleagues asked more than 500 seniors annually about any noticeable changes in their memory, and took memory and thinking tests, for an average of 10 years. After death, 243 participants’ brains were examined for evidence of Alzheimer’s disease during autopsies.

The researchers found that nearly 56% of participants reported memory lapses overall at an average age of 82. People carrying the APOE ε4 allele had double the odds of experiencing brain impairment (adjusted odds ratio = 2.2, p = 0.036), while smokers complaining of memory problems took less time to transition to mild cognitive impairment. 

In addition, the researchers found that those with memory complaints were almost three times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment within nine years. Additionally, 80% were diagnosed with dementia within 12 years. Subjects that died prior to clinical diagnosis showed elevated levels of neuritic amyloid plaques in the neocortex and medial temporal lobe.

Kryscio told HealthDay that he was mildly surprised to see how many years it took for dementia to set in among those experiencing earlier memory lapses. This extended period potentially offers time to prevent further problems from developing, he noted.


  1. Kryscio RJ et al. Neurology. 2014;doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000000856