Scam awareness linked to Alzheimer dementia and mild cognitive impairment

Neurodegenerative disorders

By Michael Woodhead

17 Apr 2019

Susceptibility to financial scams in an elderly person may be an early indicator of impending Alzheimer dementia and mild cognitive impairment, a US study has found.

Neuropsychologists in Chicago tested the hypothesis that impaired financial decision making and low awareness of scams in otherwise healthy older people would be associated with subsequent development of dementia.

In a prospective study of 935 older persons initially free of dementia they subjected them to a financial decision making questionnaire that had previously been developed by the financial industry as a marker of low scam awareness.

After an average of six years of follow up,  151 of the study subjects (16%) developed Alzheimer dementia and 255 developed mild cognitive impairment.

The study showed that low scam awareness at baseline was associated with increased risk for Alzheimer dementia (hazard ratio [HR], 1.56), and the risk appeared to be increased with greater scam gullibility. For each 1 unit increase in scam score indicating lower awareness there was a 60% increase in dementia risk.

Low scam awareness was also associated with increased risk for mild cognitive impairment (HR, 1.47).

Writing in Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr Patricia Boyle (PhD) and colleagues from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, noted that the associations between low scam awareness and pcognitive decline persisted after adjustment for global cognitive function.

Low scam awareness was also associated with a higher burden of Alzheimer pathology in the brain, particularly β-amyloid, the study showed.

“Low scam awareness among older persons is a harbinger of adverse cognitive outcomes and is associated with Alzheimer disease pathology in the brain,” they suggested.

However they cautioned that the measure of scam awareness used in the study was an epidemiological tool and would be too weak for prediction of cognitive at the individual level.

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