(Salt Lake City, UT) — While studies show Utah’s older adults to be physically healthier than their national counterparts, new self-reported figures show they are losing their cognitive health. A recent, first-ever telephone survey of its kind found nearly 17% of Utahns aged 60 and older are experiencing memory loss that is happening more frequently or getting worse. Combined results from other surveyed states found this self-reported measure at an average of nearly 13%.
In 2005, the CDC launched the Healthy Brain Initiative, partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to develop a set of 10 questions to measure the public health burden of cognitive decline. Six years later, the Utah Department of Health, through its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, asked those questions of nearly 1,000 Utah adults aged 60 and older. Questions covered areas like confusion and memory loss, as well as the impact they have on seniors’ ability to function inside and outside the home and to care for themselves.
New research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in July detailed a growing body of evidence that subjective cognitive decline (SCD) — the self-reported perception of memory or cognition problems — may be a valid early indicator of future Alzheimer's disease or another dementia.
“It’s very important to ask our aging seniors these questions,” said Kathryn Marti, Director, UDOH Office of Public Health Assessment. “We need their answers so we can understand and plan for the kinds of resources and services our elderly will need to age safely.”
Melissa Lee with the Alzheimer’s Association Utah Chapter says that, as Alzheimer's advances through the brain, it leads to increasingly severe symptoms. “We are seeing that patients find themselves getting disoriented, experiencing mood and behavior changes, including becoming suspicious about their loved ones,” said Lee. “In the later stages they begin having trouble walking, talking, and swallowing.”
In 2011, Alzheimer’s was the sixth leading cause of death among Utahns 60 and older. And while there is no cure, the study outlines specific actions the public health community and its partners can take to help preserve and promote cognitive functioning for the elderly and to help support their caregivers.
For more information on the Healthy Brain Initiative, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org/Utah. For the full BRFSS report summery, visit http://health.utah.gov/
opha/publications/hsu/1308_ CogImp.pdf. And for information on services for the aging, or
if you suspect a loved one is suffering from cognitive decline, call 1-800-272-3900.
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