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Subjective Memory Complaints Herald Cognitive Issues in Elderly

Each additional subjective memory complaint raises odds of cognitive impairment by about 20 percent

FRIDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Specific subjective memory complaints (SMCs) are associated with increased odds of cognitive impairment in older adults, according to a study published online Sept. 15 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Rebecca England Amariglio, Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues performed a cross-sectional analysis of 16,964 women (mean age, 74 years) in the Nurses' Health Study to investigate the association between the type and number of SMCs and performance on objective cognitive assessments via telephone interviews and seven specific questions about SMCs. Odds ratios for cognitive impairment (<31 on the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status and <10th percentile on other measures) were determined by multivariable logistic regression to evaluate correlations with SMCs. After adjusting for age and depressive symptoms, the mean differences in cognitive test scores were determined using multivariable linear regression.

The investigators found that certain SMCs, like difficulty following a group conversation or navigating familiar streets, were more highly correlated with odds of cognitive impairment. Forgetfulness from one second to the next was not associated with cognitive impairment. Strong, linear trends of increasingly worse scores on cognitive tests with increasing numbers of memory complaints were noted. Giving equal weight to each SMC, every additional SMC was associated with increased odds of cognitive impairment by approximately 20 percent.

"SMCs are associated with objective cognitive status and may be considered by primary care physicians in determining whether follow-up is warranted," the authors write.

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