ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – The majority of older adults in the U.S. may suffer from memory or cognitive problems without ever getting treatment, finds a new study.

Researchers sifted through the data of 845 people age 70 and older from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study.

297 of them were found to show signs of dementia and cognitive decline, the most common of which was Alzheimer’s disease.

Out of that group, only 133 had received any kind of treatment for their symptoms.

That meant 55 percent of the patients with dementia had gone without diagnoses or treatment until they participated in the University of Michigan’s study.

Extrapolated to the general American population, it suggests that about 1.8 million elderly Americans may be suffering cognitive decline without ever being screened for dementia.

Lead author Dr. Vikas Kotagal told Live Science families should make sure older relatives get early screening: “Early evaluation and identification of people with dementia may help them receive care earlier.”

The study is published in the journal Neurology.

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