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Alzheimer's Association report many Americans might not know the early signs of memory loss, UA studying to find solutions

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Posted at 6:15 AM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 11:48:03-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — It's a medical condition that can be hard to talk about and many Americans aren't familiar with the early symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports over five million people suffer from Alzheimer's and other dementia related diseases.

But there's something called Mild Cognitive Impairment, or MCI, that is usually the early stage of Alzheimer's or dementia. A new report from the Alzheimer's Association shows that over 80% of the population aren't familiar with MCI but 18% of adults over 60 years old have MCI.

Morgen Hartford, the Southern Arizona Community Executive for the Alzheimer's Association Southern Arizona Region, said more than two in five Americans report never hearing about MCI.

"We’d like people to recognize that it’s more common than people realize," he said. "And it is a condition where in some cases can be the early ages of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia and they shouldn’t ignore it."

At the University of Arizona, scientists were rewarded a $60 million grant to lead The Precision Aging Network, which is a project that aims to develop more effective brain-aging treatments.

Carol Barnes, the director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, said they are looking for treatments and interventions that are targeted to the individual because everyone ages differently. She said MCI is more difficult to diagnose because it looks like normal aging.

"It could be that people are on a trajectory towards Alzheimer’s but maybe the person you pick out of a crowd and test, scores low, but maybe they scored low their whole life,” she said.

The Precision Aging Network is set to start several studies where they will be testing different groups of people and measuring their cognition in order to find out what strategies work best to keep off the path of dementia.

Tina Giuliano is a reporter for KGUN 9. She is a native Arizonan and grew up in Scottsdale. Tina is passionate about storytelling and is excited to work telling Tucson's stories. Share your story ideas and important issues with Tina by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.