How a Neck Scan Could Identify Dementia Before Symptoms Occur

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerApril 1, 2019

There are approximately 50 million people living with dementia worldwide. There is no cure or treatment for the disease, but early diagnosis can help mitigate symptoms, expand options and allow for financial and legal planning. Many researchers are focusing their efforts on early diagnosis and prevention.

A recent study has found that an ultrasound of the neck may be able to predict a person’s risk of dementia nearly a decade before symptoms occur. Learn more about the study and why researchers believe this non-invasive neck scan may identify those at a higher risk of the disease.

How a Neck Ultrasound Could Identify Dementia

A study from the University College London (UCL), recently presented at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific conference, found that an ultrasound of the neck could identify dementia before symptoms occur. The study included 3,191 participants between the ages of 58-74. All participants had a scan of their neck in 2002 and then had cognitive functions monitored for 14 years.

The scans detected and monitored a pulse, which showed that intense pulses could cause damage to small vessels in the brain, leading to minor bleeding – or, mini-strokes. These mini-strokes can build up over time and lead to dementia symptoms.

The study found that people who had more intense pulses were up to 50% more likely to experience reduced cognitive functions than other participants. The study did not go on to evaluate which participants went on to develop dementia.

Lifestyle Changes Seniors Can Make to Reduce Their Dementia Risk

Researchers are hopeful that by identifying people who have a higher risk for dementia early on, lifestyle changes can be made that can help lower that risk. People can then actively control their blood pressure and cholesterol, eat healthy, exercise and choose to not smoke. “Dementia is not an inevitable cause of aging,” says Scott Chiesa, a post-doctoral researcher at UCL.”How you live your life has a real impact on how quickly your condition can decline.”

This study provides more evidence of a brain and heart-health relationship. Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, notes, “What we do know is that the blood supply in the brain is incredibly important and that maintaining healthy blood pressure and a healthy heart is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia.

She continues, saying, “While these findings are interesting, as the full data from this research is yet to be published it is difficult to assess how useful this kind of scan could be.”

Have you, a parent or senior loved one been diagnosed with dementia? How did you identify dementia in yourself or a loved one? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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