During the follow-up, 61 cases of dementia were identified. Twenty-six of these people had scores in the highest quartile of the within-person variability index.
The researchers found that when they controlled for sex, education and medical illness, each one-point difference in the variability scores increased the risk of dementia by nearly four times. If they also factored in adjustments for scores on individual tests, the risk was still more than doubled for each one point difference in the variability model.
"The investigators found that relatively brief measures of memory and executive function reassessed annually would allow physicians to predict of dementia before the patient scores in the clearly impaired range," said Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of the division of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
"This study brings us one step closer to a simple, safe and reliable test of dementia risk," added Kennedy. And, that's important, he said, because once medications are developed to treat dementia, you have to be able to correctly identify who needs the treatment.
To read more about diagnosing dementia, visit the Family Caregiver Alliance.
SOURCES: Roee Holtzer, Ph.D., assistant professor, psychology and neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, New York City; Gary Kennedy, M.D., director, geriatric psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; Aug. 20, 2008, Journal of the American Medical Association
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