A definite relationship has been found between cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients and their health and behavioral problems, report researchers at the University of Washington.
This is the first study that has examined the relationship of behavioral and health problems and the rate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease, said the researchers. The results of this study indicate that the rate of cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer's disease is variable and associated with both behavioral and health factors.
When evaluated by a cognitive screening measure of general function, which ranges from 0 (lowest score, severely impaired) to 30 (highest score, mild impairment to normal function), patients with alcohol abuse (either by history or currently) declined faster than any other patient group, an average of 7.7 points per year (5 points faster per year than nonabusers, said the study).
Conversely, patients who were agitated or had other neurological disease declined an average of 4.1 points per year. The patients were evaluated on thyroid disease, other neurological diseases, head trauma, gait disturbance, and alcohol and drug abuse. None of the health problems was thought to be the primary cause of the dementia. The behavioral problems were restlessness, agitation, wandering, hallucinations, suspiciousness or paranoia, incontinence, problems with personal hygiene, depression, awareness of memory loss, and falling.
Sex of the patient had no significant effect on the rate of decline. Of the 106 patients in the study, 70% were female. The average age of the subjects was 77 years.
For more information, contact Linda K. Harootyan or Mo Reyazuddin, The Gerontological Society of America, 1275 K Street, NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20005-4006; 202-842-1275.