If you are like most Americans, you’ve honed your ability to smell out a scam over the past few years. But not all older people have perfected these techniques. Falling for scams may be an early sign of cognitive impairment.
The researchers followed 935 older adults in and around Chicago for six years. The volunteers lived in their own homes and none had been diagnosed with dementia at the outset. At that time, they answered questions to reveal scam awareness.
Every year thereafter, they took neuropsychological tests to reveal cognitive impairment. About 16 percent of the participants developed Alzheimer disease and 34 percent had mild cognitive impairment. Those who had shown they were susceptible to falling for scams were 56 percent more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer disease. In addition, people with low scam awareness were 47 percent more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.
Join over 150,000 subscribers at The People's Pharmacy
Unfortunately, the measure of scam awareness the investigators used “is too weak for prediction at the individual level.” Consequently, this correlation isn’t perfect. A person who is fairly confused may still be suspicious of a scam. Sometimes an older person who appears to be doing well cognitively will become a victim. Overall, however, those who had trouble determining who is trustworthy were more likely to undergo mental deterioration.
Other Risk Factors for Cognitive Decline:
Over the years, scientists have uncovered a number of factors that could make people more vulnerable to cognitive impairment. Recently investigators reported a link between gum disease and the onset of dementia. In addition, Dr. Ruth Itzhaki of the University of Manchester has conducted decades of research on infection with herpes simplex 1 (cold sores). This viral infection may contribute to the risk for Alzheimer disease. People who have a genetic susceptibility for this condition (APOe-E4) may be the only ones who need to worry about the link, however.
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. Read Terry's Full Bio.
Drugs and Older People
Download this guide to drugs that are usually inappropriate for older people. Avoiding drug-induced forgetfulness and falls.
Boyle et al, "Scam awareness related to incident Alzheimer dementia and mild cognitive impairment: A prospective cohort study." Annals of Internal Medicine, April 16, 2019. DOI: 10.7326/M18-2711
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy
We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.