Researchers have created an easy tool for people worried about the possibility of cognitive decline as they grow older. The Online Calculator is supposed to estimate the general risk of dementia for the average person 55 and older and is based on research published this month.Dementia is a broad term for many conditions, linked by the usually worsening loss of cognitive functions like memory.
Alzheimer’s disease affects 50 million people worldwide. Dementia is not curable once symptoms start, and it often leads to death. The risk of dementia climbs the older we become, though there are some forms directly tied to inherited genetic mutations, which may occur earlier in life.
Doctors suspect controllable aspects of environment influence dementia risk, and several studies have suggested over a third of cases could be preventable through changing these aspects for the better. This research is led by scientists at the University of Ottawa, builds on these earlier studies by trying to create a predictive algorithm for the short-term risk of dementia in the general population. It was created through studying the responses of 50,000 residents of Ontario, Canada, 55 years old and up, who were part of a long-running population study in which they answered basic questions about their current health and lifestyle.
Their medical records were tracked following their participation in the study, which meant researchers could tell how many were diagnosed with dementia over the next five years. The researchers compared the people with dementia to those without to see which risk factors seemed to be most predictive and fed all this information into the algorithm. Then they tested out their Online Calculator on another sample of 25,000 people and found that it was accurate in predicting a person’s dementia risk.