Predicting Dementia Risk

August 31, 2015
memory loss

A new system may identify dementia risk.

Early detection of most conditions increases the chance of a more successful outcome, and this is especially true for dementia. A recent study indicates that a new scoring system may help rank a person’s risk of developing dementia.

Published online in the journal Neurology, the article “Predicting the risk of mild cognitive impairment in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging” looked at 1,449 individuals who were between 70 and 89 at the time the study began.

Initially, none of the subjects had diagnosed memory or thinking issues. Scientists followed these subjects for a period of five years, testing them every 15 months and recording the results.

During that five year period, 28% of the subjects developed memory or thinking issues. Using the information obtained from this study, researchers developed a scoring system that can evaluate the likelihood that a given individual will develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI). This is useful, as each year 10-15% of those diagnosed with MCI then develop Alzheimer’s.

In developing the scoring algorithm, researchers looked at many factors, including age, gender, education level, marital status, smoking status, presence or absence of diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, history of stroke, obesity, and issues such as depression or anxiety. The higher a person’s score, the greater the risk that he or she will develop MCI. Those in the highest bracket of scores have seven times the risk of dementia of those in the lowest bracket.

Diabetes in a person who is 75 or younger tends to add significantly to the score, as do high levels of anxiety or depression.

While the results of this study are interesting, the use of the scoring system will be limited until it is further tested and corroborated. However, doctors may still find the test useful as a means of identifying individuals who may benefit from undergoing advanced tests to identify possible memory issues.

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