Can your Medical Records Yield Your Dementia Risk Score?

Written by Active Minds on Monday the 29th of February 2016.


Someone worried they might have dementia will often go through a confusing and anxious time. An early diagnosis is crucial to treating the condition but is often hard to come by due to lack of scientifically-proven tests and the fact that early-stage dementia symptoms often heavily overlap – and therefore can be confused with – other conditions.

That’s why researchers at UCL have been working on a new formula that is designed to calculate a person’s risk of developing dementia. Based on a range of factors from age to medical history, the formula calculates a person’s Dementia Risk Score – an idea of the likelihood of their developing dementia in the next five years. The test is conducted using only the information already found in your medical file and requires no extra testing or sampling, making it a relatively cheap and easy way of identifying those at risk.

During their research, the team analysed data from one million people over 12 years to create a formula that calculates whether someone is at high or low risk of dementia. The formula was then further tested on over 100,000 more patients and was found to be 78% accurate at predicting a person’s risk of developing the condition and 85% accurate at completely ruling it out.

While both high percentages, the test is by no means a sure indicator that a participant will develop or not develop the condition. Without 100% accuracy, there is a danger that someone might be found to be at low risk of dementia yet still go on to develop it.

Researchers however claim that the test will still provide much-needed help to those worried they have the condition. Identifying high risk patients could help encourage them to make the lifestyle changes necessary to delay or cope with the onset of dementia. It could also encourage themselves and their loved ones to keep an eye out for symptoms that could help with that all-important diagnosis.

If you are worried that yourself or your loved one might be showing signs of dementia, it’s vital to make an appointment with your GP straightaway. For more information, you can also visit the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Signs page which will tell you more about symptoms to look out for, how to help someone you are worried about and what to do if you think you are at risk.