Alzheimer’s worse in ‘younger elderly’

People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in their 60s and 70s tend to go downhill with the disease faster than those who start to show symptoms in very old age, a study has found.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found Alzheimer’s hit the “younger elderly” harder.

Those in their 60s and 70s lost their mental sharpness quicker and brain mass faster than those in their 80s and 90s, according to the study of 723 older people.

Linda EcEvoy, co-author of the study, published in the journal PLoS One, said it could be that people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at an older age had brains with a higher degree of “cognitive reserve”.

“This essentially means their brains are fitter and more resilient due to having been exercised more during their lives,” she claimed.

A second theory was older patients could be suffering from Alzheimer’s for years, and only display symptoms when another form of dementia strikes.

Researchers analysed brain scans of about 720 people between the ages of 60 and 90. These participants had varying levels of cognitive abilities; some had moderate levels of cognitive impairment while others had higher levels of cognitive impairment.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “These findings challenge the misconception that Alzheimer’s and dementia is only a problem for much older people, suggesting it may be more aggressive in people in their 60s and 70s.

“The results highlight the importance of helping younger people with Alzheimer’s to access clinical trials, as new drugs could have a big impact on their lives.”

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