Early diagnosis is best in most medical cases. That’s certainly true for dementia, doctors say. And some researchers at Johns Hopkins have found an online tool can help seniors determine whether they should seek a more thorough evaluation from their physicians for the malady.
The tool, which is still being refined, doesn’t diagnose. It lets the seniors know if they are at risk and should get a physical exam, blood work and images.
“As the population ages and dementia becomes more prevalent, it's important to get people diagnosed early,” says Jason Brandt, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia don't just creep up on you. They're incubating for decades in the brain. This tool is potentially very useful in determining who is at risk.”
The Dementia Risk Assessment asks questions about a person’s risk factors for dementia, including whether the person has a history of high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, high cholesterol or head injury. The tool also offers a simple memory test, said Brandt, the leader of the study that appears online in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.
The study looked at responses from 357 people over age 50 who took the assessment at alzcast.org. The assessment takes about five to 10 minutes, and Brandt says it separates those who are really at risk verses common forgetfulness that creeps up on older people. Those are people, for example, who just can’t remember where they put the keys.
There are methods to slow cognitive decline or even restore brain function with some forms of dementia. Though, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.