A simple test that can be given by any physician predicts a persons risk for developing dementia within six years with 87 percent accuracy, according to a study led by researchers at San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC).
The test, developed in the study by the researchers, is a 14-point index combining medical history, cognitive testing, and physical examination. It requires no special equipment and can be given in a clinical setting such as a doctors office or at a patients bedside.
The new index is the bedside version of a longer, more technically comprehensive best test, also developed during the study, that is 88 percent accurate.
These are the first tools to accurately predict dementia, according to lead author Deborah E. Barnes, PhD, a mental health researcher at SFVAMC. Barnes described the tests in a presentation at the 2007 International Conference on Prevention of Dementia, in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Alzheimers Association.
There are tests that accurately predict an individuals chances of developing cardiovascular disease and other maladies, but, until now, no one has developed similar scales for dementia, says Barnes, who also is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
As measured by the bedside index, the risk factors for developing dementia are an age of 70 or older, poor scores on two simple cognitive tests, slow physical functioning on everyday tasks such as buttoning a shirt or walking 15 feet, a history of coronary artery bypass surgery, a body mass index of less than 18, and current non-consumption of alcohol.
People who score 0 to 3 on the bedside test have a 6 percent chance of developing dementia within six years. A score of 4 to 6 indicates a 25 percent chance.
People with a score of 7 or higher have a 54 percent chance of developing dementia within six years.