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Certain 'Senior Moments' May Signal Mental Decline
Date:9/15/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Those "senior moments" that plague so many aging Baby Boomers may or may not be a sign of more serious problems down the line.

New research finds that losing your train of thought or forgetting where you placed your keys may be a fairly benign -- albeit annoying -- sign of age. But having trouble remembering what happened a few minutes ago, or getting lost in familiar places, may be more serious.

The information, published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, should help primary care physicians sort out the mundane from the more troublesome when they see elderly patients.

"They should be asking their patients if they have any complaints [about memory or thinking skills]," said study lead author Rebecca Amariglio, a neuropsychologist with Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. "When you're getting old, it's common to ignore these complaints."

President Obama's Affordable Care Act includes a provision for screening for these types of problems, called cognitive problems, at a person's annual physical exam.

So researchers are trying to find simple ways to sort out which patients can go home (relatively) reassured, and which might need further testing for Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia.

For this study, researchers quizzed almost 17,000 women, average age about 74, over the telephone about their own recollections of memory lapses. The investigators then correlated this data with how the women scored on standard cognitive tests, including delayed recall of sets of words and numbers, also administered over the telephone.

The researchers used a set of questions -- seven in all -- which asked the participants if they had recently experienced a change in their ability to remember things, whether they had trouble remembering a short
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