Study finds memory loss isn’t primary indicator of Alzheimer’s

Researchers say memory loss is preceeded by a decline in other cognitive skills in Alzheimer's patientsMany consider memory problems in older people to be an initial symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. But a new study suggests a decline in other cognitive skills can be an indicator years before diagnosis.

According to the BBC, a University of Kansas study has found that declining spatial skills like reading a map or doing a puzzle can be the first sign of the debilitating disease.

Researchers say these skills may begin to decline up to three years prior to diagnosis. They are followed by an overall decline in mental abilities two years prior to diagnosis and a sharp decline in memory skills one year before being diagnosed.

Health experts say the study may have an impact on the future of testing for the disease. “Early intervention will be crucial to the effectiveness of the Alzheimer’s treatments of the future, so methods of improving detection will become increasingly important,” said Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and an estimated 5.3 million Americans are living with the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association says it is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

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