New Risk Scale Identifies Normal Aging vs. Dementia

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerJanuary 11, 2017

Many of us can admit to having a “senior moment” from time to time, but the threat of a looming dementia diagnosis can be a reality for many families.

The Mayo Clinic has recently developed a scale that will help identify those seniors who are at risk for developing dementia, hopefully encouraging high risk seniors to seek early intervention.

Memory Loss and Normal Aging vs. Dementia Among Seniors

While many families and seniors joke about memory loss as we age, the fact of the matter is that some seniors will eventually face a devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in their lifetime.

The Alzheimer’s Association recently released these statistics which revealed more about the looming Alzheimer’s epidemic. Some of the startling stats listed in the report showed that:

  1. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  2. Nearly 44 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.
  3. Only 25% of people with Alzheimer’s have actually been diagnosed.
  4. 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and until a cure is found, over 16 million Americans will likely have the disease by 2050.
  5. 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.

Given this report, it is not surprising that so many seniors are left wondering if they are experiencing memory loss or if a lapse is a sign of something more serious.

Scale Helps Identify High Risk Seniors for Dementia Earlier

A new scale developed by the Mayo Clinic seeks to help seniors answer that question while also identifying those who are most at risk for developing dementia.

The Mayo Clinic research observed 1,449 seniors from Minnesota who did not report experiencing any cognitive problems over the course of 5 years. During the study, 401 of those participants developed mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Researchers then used their observations to develop a risk scale that will let people know how likely they are to develop dementia, so that those most at risk will seek early intervention.

The scoring system took into account various factors, including:

  • Highest level of education
  • History of anxiety
  • History of depression
  • History of diabetes
  • History of smoking
  • History of stroke
  • Regular medications
  • Slow gait
  • The presence of the APOE gene

Ronald Peterson, an author of the study, stated, “This risk scale provides an inexpensive way for doctors to identify people who should be referred to more advanced testing for memory issues or may be better candidates for clinical trials.”

He continued:

“Early detection of individuals at high risk of developing memory and thinking problems that we call mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is crucial because people with MCI are at a greater risk of developing dementia. This allows for a wider window of opportunity to initiate preventative measures.”

Do you think this normal aging vs. dementia scale will help people seek earlier intervention when necessary? Share if you would want to know how at risk you are for dementia in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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