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New Risk Index Shows Promising Results in Predicting Dementia in Older Adults

Dec 09, 2016 04:00 AM EST

A team of medical doctors and engineers from Finland and Sweden has developed a new detection tool based on the novel machine learning approach that could identify comprehensive profiles for predicting dementia.

The new tool, described in a paper published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, is a dementia risk index that can assess people's risk of dementia and indicate the most relevant target areas for preventive measures.

"The results of our study are very promising, as it is the first time this machine learning approach was used for estimating dementia risk in a cognitively normal general population," said lead author Alina Solomon, of the University of Eastern Finland, in a press release. "The risk index was designed to support clinical decision making, and we are very keen on exploring its potential practical use."

To test out the new index, the researchers used the data from the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) study conducted in Eastern Finland. The participants were taken from the general Finnish population. These individuals underwent detailed health-related assessments, including memory and other cognitive test and were considered to be cognitively normal. The participants' age range from 65 to 79 years old.

Using the new dementia risk index, the researchers were able to identify comprehensive profiles for predicting dementia development 10 years before its onset. Additionally, the risk index has the ability to produce a visual format of detailed individual dementia risk profiles, making it easier to interpret.

The researchers noted that the risk index could be most useful in identifying older adults who are at most risk of dementia. However, the researchers warned that the risk index is merely a tool to help dementia prevention strategies and should never be used as a diagnostic tool for dementia.

Dementia is not a specific disease. It is a group of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. Alzheimer's disease and stroke are the two of the many different diseases that could cause dementia. Aside from the classic memory loss, patients suffering from dementia may also experience serious problems with one or two brain functions. Despite popular belief, dementia is not a part of normal aging.

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