Algorithm using patient’s details can help predict dementia prior to its onset: Study

Approximately 5.3 million Americans of all ages suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in 2015, according to the Alzheimer’s Association in America. The figure is important because the disease has been identified as one of the most common causes of dementia. The disease that roughly accounts for an estimated 60 to 80 percent cases of dementia affects nearly one in nine people aged 65 and older in the country.

Dementia risk can now be foretold

Dementia is characterized by symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty in thinking and cognitive disability. A recent research by the University College London has claimed that the risk of developing the disease can be foretold prior to the onset of the condition.

The study, titled “Predicting dementia risk in primary care: development and validation of the Dementia Risk Score using routinely collected data,” has come up with an algorithm to foresee a dementia risk with the help of data collected over a period of five years.

Details for algorithm already available with GPs

The algorithm used factors like age, sex, social deprivation, smoking, body mass index, alcohol use, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, atrial fibrillation, aspirin use and depression. The researchers said that these details are already available with the general practitioners (GPs) and no added information, such as blood samples, memory evaluation and DNA analyses, would be required.

The scientists used data from general practices in the Health Improvement Network (THIN) database from across the United Kingdom. The researchers randomly selected 377 practices for a development unit and examined 930,395 patients aged between 60 and 95 years.

The sample unit displayed no signs of dementia, cognitive disorders or problems with memory at the baseline. Algorithm models for two age groups (60-79 and 80-95) were created and an external validation was conducted by validating the model on a separate cohort of 264,224 patients from 95 randomly chosen THIN practices that did not contribute to the development cohort.

The study, published online in the journal BMC Medicine in January 2016, pointed out to a five-year risk of identification of dementia based on likely conditions comprising sociodemographic, cardiovascular, lifestyle and mental health variables.

Dr. Kate Walters, director, Centre for Ageing and Population Studies at the University College London, said, “The risk score proved accurate when researchers used it to assess the records of 226 140 patients ages 60 to 79. 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.”

The factors taken into account during the process of research were compared with the newly recorded cases of patients suffering from dementia during the follow up period and the Dementia Risk Score helped rule out patients with the least probability for conditions as Alzheimer’s disease in primary care. Walters said, “It was a good discriminator, with a score of 0.8 where one would be 100 percent accurate. This is better than any other test out there at the moment.”

Alerting people about possible onset of dementia

The Dementia Risk Score discovered during the course of the research is an important breakthrough. Walters said, “The score could be especially useful for identifying people at low risk of dementia. This could help practitioners working with people who are anxious about developing dementia. This might avoid unnecessary investigations and anxiety for those at very low risk.”

The algorithm though does not apply to judge the risk of patients aged 80 and above, it will serve to treat patients at early stages of dementia. Though complete recovery is not possible in cases of patients suffering from dementia, proper care and complete attention can help promote proper mental health in old patients.

If you or your loved one is suffering from dementia or any other mental disorder, the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline can help you find effective treatments for various mental health illnesses so that you get back your psychological and emotional well-being. You may call our 24/7 helpline number at 855-653-8178 or chat online to know about various mental health rehabilitation centers in your vicinity.