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West Virginians Report Signs of Cognitive Decline

New Data Underscores The Importance of Early Detection

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 10 percent of those age 45 and older in West Virginia report they are experiencing confusion or memory loss that is happening more often or is getting worse (i.e., subjective cognitive decline) and 54.8 percent said that it interfered with their daily life.

Despite the known benefits of early detection, 52.4 percent of individuals with increased memory problems reported they had not discussed their symptoms with a health care provider.

The findings come from the Cognitive Module of the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a public health survey conducted annually by states in coordination with the CDC. Participants were asked a series of questions about memory problems, the burden of cognitive decline and whether memory problems have been discussed with a health care professional.

West Virginia was one of 33 states and the District of Columbia to collect the data. The aggregated results show 11.6 percent of Americans age 45 and older have subjective cognitive decline and African Americans are 21 percent more likely than whites to have subjective cognitive decline.

The data also indicate that people with subjective cognitive decline often have additional health issues beyond their increasing memory problems.

In the 2015 study, 80 percent of respondents with subjective cognitive decline reported at least one other chronic condition (arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and/or diabetes).

“It is important to discuss memory changes with your physician,” said Lisa Campbell, program and advocacy coordinator of the Alzheimer’s Association’s West Virginia chapter.

“Early detection improves access to medical and support services, provides an opportunity to make legal, financial and care plans while the affected individual is still capable, and improves quality of care through the better management of other chronic conditions.”

There is evidence that self-reported memory problems are a good predictor of future diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Collecting this data is helpful in predicting future costs, as well as care and support service needs at both the state and national level.

In West Virginia, more than 37,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s and 107,000 are providing unpaid care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Nationally, an estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease at an annual cost to taxpayers of $259 billion.

While today there is no way to cure, prevent, or slow the progression of the disease, early and documented diagnosis when coupled with access to care planning services leads to better outcomes for individuals with Alzheimer’s as well as their caregivers.

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit alz.org.

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