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Computer-based test aims to predict dementia risk

Staff writer |
A new computer-based test might be able to predict a person's risk for dementia by analyzing the information family doctors gather during routine visits, a new study from Britain suggests.

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Researchers from University College London have developed an algorithm that uses medical data to predict a five-year risk of dementia, according to a report Jan. 21 in the journal BioMed Central.

The algorithm assesses factors like age, sex, social interaction, smoking, body-mass index, alcohol use, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, irregular heartbeat, aspirin use and depression, the study authors said.

"We chose the particular factors as other research has shown in some people that they [risk factors] can be linked to an increased risk of dementia. We have written a simple program to calculate the score," said Kate Walters, director of the Centre for Ageing and Population Studies at University College London.

The Dementia Risk Score proved accurate when researchers used it to assess the records of more than 226,000 patients ages 60 to 79, Walters said.

But, it was not accurate for judging dementia risk at age 80 or beyond, because by that age the risk of dementia is elevated across the board, she said.

"We therefore would not recommend it for people aged 80 years or more, but it is potentially useful for people aged 60 to 79 years," Walters said.


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