Subtle Signs Can Reveal Cognitive Decline

Multiple subtle neurological abnormalities independent predictor of mortality

MONDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- Older community-dwelling adults who have no overt signs of neurological disease but who have multiple subtle neurological abnormalities are at increased risk of cerebrovascular events and mortality, according to study findings published in the June 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Marco Inzitari, M.D., of the University of Florence in Italy, and colleagues conducted a study of 506 elderly people free of any overt signs of neurological disease or cognitive impairment, with a mean age of 71.9 years, of whom 42 percent were men. Cognitive status and disability were assessed at baseline and again four years later, and the subjects were followed-up for eight years.

At baseline, 59 percent of subjects had a subtle neurological abnormalities score of more than 1, and the score increased with age, declining cognitive and physical performance, depressive symptoms and disability. The score was an independent predictor of worsening disability and cognitive status, and scores of 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 and above had mortality rates of 22.6, 23.3, 23.9, 58.6 and 91.9 per 1,000 person-years, respectively.

"Our data support the hypothesis that subtle neurological abnormalities in elderly individuals are a manifestation of early brain damage, a finding that may have important implications in research studies on the prevention of age-related cognitive and functional decline," the authors write.

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