BOSTON — Memory problems that are often dismissed as a normal part of aging may not be so harmless after all.

Noticing you have had a decline beyond the occasional misplaced car keys or forgotten name could be the very earliest sign of Alzheimer’s, several research teams are reporting.

Doctors often regard people who complain that their memory is slipping as “the worried well,” but the new studies show they may well have reason to worry, said Maria Carrillo, a senior scientist at the Alzheimer’s Association.

One study found that self-reported memory changes preceded broader mental decline by about six years. Another tied these changes to evidence on brain scans that dementia is setting in.

Read more in Thursday’s Arizona Daily Star or StarNet.