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15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
Date:5/13/2009

In older volunteeers, the screening tool predicted start of dementia

WEDNESDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have developed a 15-point test that can identify the risk for developing Alzheimer's disease in older people.

But the tool, which involves both simple questions as well as complex physiological testing, may not be practical for clinical use.

"Some of the points on there are fairly easy, such as age and mental status exams. We do those already in the clinic," said Dr. Michael Palm, an assistant professor of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics and internal medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. "But, as far as the screening tests, I don't think we can order MRI and genetic testing on everybody who starts getting older."

And the simpler parts of the system, Palm added, are already routinely used in screening for Alzheimer's.

Palm was not involved with the study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and published online May 13 issue in the journal Neurology.

According to the authors of the study, which was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, while there are ways to predict dementia two decades in the future in middle-aged individuals, there is no system to predict onset of the disease later in life.

The study involved 3,375 people, mean age 76, none of whom had dementia when they were enrolled. About 60 percent were women, and 15 percent were black.

Risk factors in the index included: older age; poor performance on cognitive tests; low body-mass index; having the predisposing apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene; abnormal MRI findings; thicker carotid artery measurements and other vascular indications; slowness buttoning a shirt or performing other physical tasks; and not drinking alcohol.

Only 4 percent of participants with low scores went on to develop deme
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