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New Tool Predicts Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease


An estimated 26 million people, approximately 5.3 million Americans globally are living with the fatal brain disease known as Alzheimer’s.  As the disease progresses by extinguishing brain cells, victims suffer from memory loss, difficulties with thought processes and the development of behavioral problems that reach a level of severity that affect their ability to work.   Socializing and enjoy lifelong hobbies can also be troublesome.

Now the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 70 percent of all dementia cases.  Although scientists diligently continue to pursue ways to treat, delay or even prevent its onset, the disease has no known cure, nor is any adequate treatment currently available in todays world.  In the ongoing war against Alzheimer’s, researchers have now established a checklist that can now accurately predict the risk of people over 65 years of age, for developing Alzheimer’s disease.  The checklist of risk factors for the disease forecast over half of the cases of dementia in the group of seniors followed over a six-year time period.

With no system available to predict the onset of the disease later in life, there have been available, ways to predict dementia just two decades in the future among middle-aged adults.  The full report on the study can be found in the journal Neurology. The diagnostic tool is composed of a 15-point scale of a number of known risks factors for the development of Alzheimer’s which includes advanced age, a decline in thinking skills, the presence of the ApoE4 gene, and atypical MRI findings as well as thicker carotid artery measurements and other vascular manifestations.

Other risk factors in-compassed in the index are whether or not a patient is underweight, has a past history of heart bypass surgery, whether they abstains from alcohol use, or is slow in performing physical routine such as buttoning a shirt. Those people who score 8 or higher on the test are considered to be at high risk of cultivating dementia within the next six years.

According to researcher Deborah Barnes of the University of California, San Francisco,

“This new risk index could be very helpful both for research and for people at risk
of developing dementia and their families.”

She also noted that besides helping drug makers establish new medications for the treatment of early stages of the devastating disease, having a tool that capable of for-seeing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s could assist doctors in following patients as well.  The research team studied 3,375 people having an standard age of 76 and who showed no sign of dementia of which about 60 percent
were women, and 15 percent were black.  56 percent had received high marks on the risk index, 480 of the study participants developed dementia over the six years of follow-up study.   This rate was contrasted to 23 percent of those having received moderate scores and only four percent of those with low scores. Older age and poorer accomplishments on cognitive tests were the strongest indicators of future dementia.

On the whole, the index correctly categorized 88 percent of the study participants.    In addition to simple questions, on the downside, the tool involves complex physiological testing and may not be realistic for clinical use.  Barnes said in addition, her team will check for the possibility of a simpler version that could be as accurate,  to performing other studies to confirm the index.

In the final last stages of Alzheimer’s, the patient is completely dependent upon caregivers. Language is reduced to simple phrases or even just single words, eventually leading to complete loss of speech. Patients can often understand and return emotional signals despite the loss of verbal language abilities.

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