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Modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer disease and subjective memory impairment across age groups.

  • Author(s): Chen, Stephen T
  • Siddarth, Prabha
  • Ercoli, Linda M
  • Merrill, David A
  • Torres-Gil, Fernando
  • Small, Gary W
  • et al.


Previous research has identified modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer's disease (AD) in older adults. Research is limited on the potential link between these risk factors and subjective memory impairment (SMI), which may precede AD and other dementias. Examination of these potential relationships may help identify those at risk for AD at a stage when interventions may delay or prevent further memory problems. The objective of this study was to determine whether risk factors for AD are associated with SMI among different age groups.


Trained interviewers conducted daily telephone surveys (Gallup-Healthways) of a representative community sample of 18,614 U.S. respondents, including 4,425 younger (age 18 to 39 years), 6,365 middle-aged (40 to 59 years), and 7,824 older (60 to 99 years) adults. The surveyors collected data on demographics, lifestyles, and medical information. Less education, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, less exercise, obesity and depression, and interactions among them, were examined for associations with SMI. Weighted logistic regressions and chi-square tests were used to calculate odds ratios and confidence intervals for SMI with each risk factor and pairwise interactions across age groups.


Depression, less education, less exercise, and hypertension were significantly associated with SMI in all three age groups. Several interactions between risk factors were significant in younger and middle-aged adults and influenced their associations with SMI. Frequency of SMI increased with age and number of risk factors. Odds of having SMI increased significantly with just having one risk factor.


These results indicate that modifiable risk factors for AD are also associated with SMI, suggesting that these relationships occur in a broad range of ages and may be targeted to mitigate further memory problems. Whether modifying these risk factors reduces SMI and the eventual incidence of AD and other dementias later in life remains to be determined.

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