Depression, irritability and dullness are common among people who have mild memory loss, and they can gain from prompt treatment. The Cardiovascular Health Study is the largest ever investigation into heart disease and stroke in those over 60. It involves nearly 3,000 people in the US, some of who had a MRI scan which could indicate mild cognitive problems, such as memory loss.
Researchers at Wake Forest University now report on this sub-group, observing that around 35 per cent also had psychiatric symptoms. These seemed to stem from impaired brain function, rather than being an emotional response to memory loss.
The good news is that these symptoms, which include irritability and depression, are highly treatable. But doctors often miss the psychiatric dimension in cognitive impairment. It is well worthwhile asking about depression and so on, say the researchers, when someone presents with memory loss. Treatment will improve quality of life for the patient and their carers.