September 13, 2018 - 12:14 AMT
Researchers working to predict dementia 10 years in advance

People at high risk for dementia can be identified before they have any symptoms.

In fact, they can be diagnosed early enough to make lifestyle changes that could lower their odds of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s.

That’s the conclusions from researchers in a new study, Healthline says.

Danish researchers who studied decades’ worth of data on more than 100,000 people — including those with a genetic predisposition for dementia — say they were able to predict the 10-year risk of developing the disease.

Among those carrying the APOE E44 gene, the risk of dementia among women ages 60 to 69 was 10 percent. For men, it was 8 percent.

From ages 70 to 79, the risk rose to 22 percent for women and 19 percent for men. By age 80 or older, the risk rises to 38 percent and 33 percent, respectively, the researchers estimated.

For Alzheimer’s disease specifically, the risk was 7 percent for women and 6 percent for men ages 60 to 69. For ages 70 to 79, it was 16 percent for women and 12 percent for men. By age 80 and older, it was 24 percent for women and 19 percent for men.

“Age, sex and APOE genotype robustly identify high-risk groups for Alzheimer disease and all dementia,” researchers led by Dr. Ruth Frikke-Schmidt, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, concluded in the study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. “These groups can potentially be targeted for preventive interventions.”

“Despite important preventive efforts over the last decades — resulting in decreased smoking, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels in the general population — physical inactivity, overweight, and diabetes remain threats for our health care system, and in particular for cardiovascular disease and dementia,” the researchers added. “Intensifying preventive efforts in general is thus of crucial importance, and especially for those patients at highest risk who most likely will benefit the most from early and targeted prevention.”

Frikke-Schmidt said the findings could aid researchers who are testing preventative programs with specific high-risk groups, such as the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER).

“We still don’t know whether a targeted intervention would benefit high-risk groups the most,” she said. “While we wait for the results of such trials, there is sufficient evidence to say that what is good for the heart is good for the brain.”