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Simple test can spot signs of early dementia

picture of a man with the back of his head exploding
picture of a man with the back of his head exploding Image credit: openaccessgovernment.org

Early signs of dementia could be spotted nearly ten years before symptoms become apparent just by a straightforward memory and logic test.

Studies show people who go on to develop conditions such as Alzheimers underperform at solving problems, reaction times and struggle recalling a sequence of numbers.

Dr Timothy Rittman, of the University of Cambridge, told The Times a simple 30 minute test could identify individuals at high risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in later life.

Despite there being no cure for the condition, if a person had an early diagnosis they could prepare for the future and change their lifestyle as dementia is linked to smoking, high blood pressure and lack of exercise.

The study saw around 500,000 people aged between 40-69 taking part in the UK Biobank project. Volunteers were asked to share information on their health and participate in a series of tests, which included a game of ‘snap’ and puzzle solving.

Those who went on to develop dementia scored low marks in the tests.

Dr Nol Swaddiwudhipong, of the University of Cambridge, who led the study, said: “When we looked back at patients’ histories, it became clear that they were showing some cognitive impairment several years before their symptoms became obvious enough to prompt a diagnosis. The impairments were often subtle, but [they were seen] across a number of aspects of cognition.

“This is a step towards us being able to screen people who are at greatest risk — for example, people over 50 or those who have high blood pressure or do not do enough exercise — and intervene at an earlier stage to help them reduce their risk.”

But Ritman stressed people who have trouble remembering numbers should not be concerned.

“Even some healthy individuals will naturally score better or worse than their peers. But we would encourage anyone who has any concerns or notices that their memory or recall is getting worse to speak to their GP,” he assured.

For information and advice on Dementia visit the Dementia UK website.