Fast Five Quiz: Memory Loss

Helmi L. Lutsep, MD


April 10, 2019

A novel lifestyle intervention may reverse cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer disease. In a study of 10 patients with memory loss associated with either Alzheimer disease, mild cognitive impairment, or subjective cognitive impairment, researchers found that a personalized comprehensive lifestyle intervention tailored to address metabolic deficits identified on laboratory testing as affecting the plasticity of the patient's brain improved memory loss. Cognition subjectively or objectively improved in nine of the 10 patients within 3-6 months.

A German study of 50 healthy, normal-weight to overweight elderly patients also found that 3 months of calorie restriction (30% reduction) resulted in a significant increase in verbal memory scores, which was correlated with decreases in fasting plasma levels of insulin and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. The effect of calorie reduction on memory was most pronounced in patients with best adherence to the diet.

Patients with Alzheimer disease most commonly present with insidiously progressive memory loss, to which other spheres of cognition are impaired over several years. After memory loss occurs, patients may also experience language disorders (eg, anomic aphasia or anomia) and impairment in their visuospatial skills and executive functions. Patients with mild Alzheimer disease usually have somewhat less obvious executive, language, and/or visuospatial dysfunction. In atypical presentations, dysfunction in cognitive domains other than memory may be most apparent.

Some studies have reported a higher risk for Alzheimer disease in women than in men; other studies, however, including the Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study, found no difference in risk between men and women. Memory loss associated with Alzheimer disease does not appear to have any sexual disparity. Any sexual disparity in the prevalence of Alzheimer disease in general may simply reflect women's higher life expectancy.

In clinical research studies, atrophy of the hippocampi (structures important in mediating memory processes) on coronal MRI is considered a valid biomarker of Alzheimer disease neuropathology. Nonetheless, measurement of hippocampal volume is not used in routine clinical care in the diagnosis of Alzheimer disease.

Read more on Alzheimer disease.


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