The condition is called mild cognitive impairment and it refers to memory problems, but no other difficulties in thinking and reasoning, or in daily activities.
Dr. John Morris of Washington University in St. Louis authored the study and he says confusion arises because most cases of mild cognitive impairment really are the first signs of Alzheimer's.
Morris says if a doctor thinks the problem is early Alzheimer's it's best if patients and their families know so the patient can join in planning for future care.
The study is published in "Archives of Neurology."
Later on this morning in Washington, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to hold a news conference discussing steps the Obama administration is taking to assist Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers.
Sebelius will be joined by National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins.
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