Pre-dementia rising, especially in men
New research shows that a milder type of mental decline that often precedes Alzheimer’s disease is much more common than thought.
Nearly a million older Americans slide from normal memory into mild impairment each year, doctors have reported at a medical conference in Chicago.
That’s in addition to the half million Americans who develop full-blown Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
The problem is sure to grow as baby boomers age.
Ralph Nixon, a New York psychiatrist and adviser to the Alzheimer’s Association, was blunt.
“We’re facing a crisis,” he said.
I have mixed feelings about this. I do understand that many types of dementia have long “subclinical” phases where the brain is changing but their is no overt sign of memory loss or cognitive decline. It makes sense that there would be many people who have only very mild impairment now but will go on to have real problems later.
I have blogged on the age issue related to presidential candidate and in those posts I have rejected the idea that a voter can legitimately argue that John McCain is simply “too old” to be president.
Age is not the issue.
At the same time, I do think that it is fair to ask, “How robust is this candidate’s memory, his grasp of detail, his ability to integrate new facts into novel situations?” These are, I think, fair questions (that can be asked of both major candidates).
If the recent string of McCain gaffe’s continues or worsens, I expect that some will begin to argue that John McCain, the man, is experiencing some kind of “pre-dementia.” As a doctor, I am wary of diagnosis by press clipping. A real diagnosis would require careful clinical testing in order to be valid.
One last thought. Some of the major drug companies have been pushing “pre-dementia” as a way to increase sales of their Alzheimer’s drugs. So far there is little evidence to suggest that the drugs are useful in this population.
(H/T Alex M)