senior man with depression in wheel chair
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A new tool aims to assess dementia risk in people aged 50 and up, which could pave the way for preventive strategies and/or earlier detection.

A report in BMJ Mental Health discusses the UK Biobank Dementia Risk Score (UKBDRS), a 14-year risk score that can help people age 50 and up to assess their risk for all-cause dementia. 

The tool was validated in two groups of 220,762 participants in the UK Biobank, according to Raihaan Patel, PhD, of the University of Oxford in England, and co-authors. The people in the groups were between 50 and 73 years old. In total, 3,813 people (1.7%) in the U.K. Biobank cohort and 93 people (3.2%) in Whitehall II developed dementia.

The tool looks at 11 variables that could predict if a person will develop dementia. These include education, family history, medical history, living situation, sex and age. 

“Importantly, our score highlights the importance of modifiable risk factors,” Patel said in MedPage Today. “While age and apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene are strongest predictors, modifiable factors such as diabetes, depression and high blood pressure also played a key role.”

The UKBDRS did better than three other risk scores that are widely used: the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and Dementia (CAIDE) score, the Australian National University Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Index (ANU-ADRI) and the Dementia Risk Score (DRS).

Earlier this year, an analysis published stated that commonly used scores, including CAIDE and ANU-ADRI, had high error rates in predicting 10-year dementia risk.

“Previous risk scores have not been very good, and so a better score is most welcome,” Gill Livingston, MD, a researcher at University College London, told the same publication.

Dementia risk scores give people information and the potential to change their trajectory, she said.

The scores also help doctors know what to try to do in order to prevent dementia. And it helps researchers know who to target for interventions, LIvingston said.

The researchers noted that one of the groups was made up mostly of men, which means the scores may not work well in all people.

“There are still improvements required before this score is suitable for clinical practice,” Patel said. “While the score performed well across two UK cohorts, further evaluation across more diverse groups of people both within and beyond the UK is required.”