Health

Few discuss memory problems during checkups, study finds

Brain scans using Amyvid dye to highlight beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. Clockwise from top left: a cognitively normal subject; an amyloid-positive patient with Alzheimer's disease; a patient with mild cognitive impairment who progressed to dementia during a study; and a patient with mild cognitive impairment.
Brain scans using Amyvid dye to highlight beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. Clockwise from top left: a cognitively normal subject; an amyloid-positive patient with Alzheimer's disease; a patient with mild cognitive impairment who progressed to dementia during a study; and a patient with mild cognitive impairment.
Slide courtesy of the journal Neurology

Listen to story

00:50
Download this story 0MB

Routine medical checkups provide an ideal setting for older adults to discuss memory problems with their doctors, yet many avoid such conversations, according to a new study.  

Using survey data from 10,276 adults aged 45 and older who reported memory loss or confusion in the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), researchers found that only one in four discussed their cognitive difficulties with health professionals. That was true, the study found, even when the issues were serious enough to affect the tasks of daily life.

Researchers said the findings are worrisome because sometimes memory loss may not be related to dementia -  and, as such,  remains treatable.  And even for those whose memory issues do signal more serious cognitive decline, by staying mum a person could miss the chance to participate in a clinical trial or to receive other help, researchers said. 

The study’s authors say they hope their findings will spark greater efforts to inform patients about the importance of discussing memory problems with their doctors.

The research is published in Preventing Chronic Disease.