April 25, 2019

Test can predict dementia with 84 per cent accuracy, scientists claim

DEMENTIA can be predicted with a test that is 84 per cent accurate, British scientists claim.

Their formula uses data routinely recorded by GPs to give a clear calculation of risk. The Dementia Risk Score rates the chances of being struck down with the harrowing illness after assessing daily routine and medical history.

In eight out of 10 people aged 60 to 79, it predicted the risk of developing dementia within five years. It is hoped the computer programme could be used to allow the vulnerable to take steps to delay the onset.

Dr Kate Walters, of University College London, said: “This is better than any other test. We don’t want to cause anxiety and some people may not want to know their risk of dementia, so there are things to consider.

But if NHS England recommends the test there is no reason why it cannot be available soon. This could help general practitioners working with people who are anxious.”

Researchers used 930,395 patient records – none showing signs of the illness – to devise the formula. It combines factors such as age, sex and social deprivation with health, daily routines and prescription drugs.

Indicators such as depression, stroke, alcohol intake, diabetes, irregular heart rate, smoking and high blood pressure are used to produce a risk percentage.

Other known risk factors such as physical activity and education are not included as they are not normally assessed routinely by GPs.

The test was assessed against a separate set of patient records and was able to predict people who are at very low risk of developing dementia over the next five years with 84 per cent accuracy. It was less good for people aged 80-plus.

The research, published in the journal BMC Medicine, showed it was a “good discriminator”, with a score of 0.84 where 1 is accurate.

The test could help doctors rule out patients at very low risk of conditions such as Alzheimer’s while encouraging healthier routines.

Scientists are optimistic about tests of solanezumab and aducanumab, antibody infusions designed to destroy amyloid protein buildup, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

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