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Dementia test could simplify diagnosis

Dementia test could simplify diagnosis
29th January 2016

Researchers at University College London (UCL) have developed a new test, which could significantly help improve dementia care and diagnosis.

The algorithm means that people could be told their risk of developing dementia in the next five years using just their medical records, a report from the Daily Telegraph explains.

It would mean that patients wouldn't need to wait for blood tests to be processed, undergo memory checks or have their DNA analysed. Instead, doctors would just need to look at information regularly held by GPs, such as age, postcode, health and education.

Lead researcher Dr Kate Walters, of the Centre for Ageing and Population Studies at UCL, said the algorithm could be added to clinical software systems, meaning practices could run the risk model on all eligible people. This means they could then offer those at risk more intensive testing or recommend management options.

Developed by researchers, the Dementia Risk Score looks at factors such as history of depression, stroke, alcohol intake, diabetes, irregular heart rate, weight loss, smoking, high blood pressure and social deprivation.

It is estimated that around a third of dementia cases could be prevented if people made preventative changes.

The team says the new test should alleviate concerns for people who worry about developing the condition but could also encourage people who are at a high risk of it to make lifestyle changes.

Dr Walters said reducing the seven main risk factors could prevent between one and three million dementia cases worldwide, which could save significant amounts on the projected costs of dementia care in the future.

Currently, around 850,000 are living with one of the different types of dementia in Britain, but this figure is expected to exceed one million by 2020 and double that number by 2050.

However, one of the main types of dementia - vascular dementia - can be reduced by controlling cholesterol, blood pressure and weight gain.

The new test could encourage people to take the necessary steps to reduce their risk of developing the condition and could also significantly improve dementia care in the future. By being able to identify the key risk factors, and even early signs of the disease itself, healthcare professionals can be in the best position to provide support and treatment to individuals.

It means the cost of caring for people with dementia should be significantly reduced, allowing funds to go elsewhere. 

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