New tool can help predict Alzheimer’s risk

May 14th, 2009 - 2:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 14 (IANS) A new tool can help predict who among people above 65 are particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.
“This new risk index could be very important both for research and for people at risk of developing dementia and their families,” said Deborah E. Barnes of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The developer of the index said: “It could be used to identify people at high risk for dementia for studies on new drugs or prevention methods. It could also identify people who have no signs of dementia but should be monitored closely, potentially helping them maintain thinking and memory skills.”

The risk index is a 15-point scale. People who score eight or more points on the scale are at high risk of developing dementia in the next six years.

Several of the items on the scale are well-known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, such as older age, low scores on tests of thinking skills, and having a gene that has been linked to the disease.

Other factors predicting dementia risk were more surprising: People who are underweight, do not drink alcohol, have had coronary bypass surgery, or are slow at performing physical tasks such as buttoning a shirt are more likely to develop dementia than people who do not have these risk factors.

To develop the index, researchers in the Cardiovascular Health Study examined 3,375

people with an average age of 76 and no evidence of dementia and followed them for six years, said an UCSF release.

During that time, 480 of the people, or 14 percent, developed dementia. The researchers then determined which factors best predicted who would develop dementia and created the point index.

The study was published in Wednesday’s online issue of Neurology.

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