University of Oxford Scientists Identify 11 Strong Predictors of Dementia Risk

University of Oxford Scientists Identify 11 Strong Predictors of Dementia Risk

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In a significant development, scientists at the University of Oxford have successfully devised a tool capable of “strongly predicting” an individual’s likelihood of developing dementia over the next 14 years.

The researchers, led by experts from the university, accomplished this feat by identifying a list of 11 risk factors that demonstrated good accuracy in assessing whether middle-aged individuals would go on to develop dementia.

This breakthrough is the culmination of extensive analysis conducted on data from over 200,000 participants aged between 50 and 73, enrolled in two major long-term British studies.

The team initially considered a list of 28 established factors that are linked to dementia risk.

Through a rigorous process, they narrowed down this list to the 11 most potent predictors.

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Among these influential factors are age, level of education, history of diabetes, history of depression, history of stroke, parental history of dementia, deprivation levels, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, living arrangements, and gender.

Additionally, the scientists investigated the influence of a specific gene, the APOE gene, which is also associated with dementia risk.

By combining all these elements, they developed the UK Biobank Dementia Risk Score (UKBDRS) – APOE tool.

The research yielded a notable result: the developed tool exhibited the highest predictive accuracy for identifying individuals who would go on to develop dementia within the 14-year span of the study.

To illustrate, an older male with a history of diabetes, living alone, experiencing high blood pressure, and carrying the APOE gene, would receive a higher risk score compared to a younger woman without these risk factors.

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The authors of the study emphasized that their assessment surpasses the performance of similar existing risk assessment tools.

Beyond identifying those at risk, these tools also offer valuable insights into preventive measures that individuals can adopt while they are still effective.

Notably, prior research has indicated that modifying certain lifestyle factors, such as quitting smoking, managing high blood pressure, weight loss, and reducing alcohol intake, could prevent up to 40 percent of dementia cases.

In the future, the newly developed tool could serve as an initial screening mechanism for dementia risk categorization.

Individuals who receive a high probability of developing dementia based on the risk score could be prioritized for further comprehensive tests, including cognitive assessments, brain scans, and blood tests.

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Associate Professor Sana Suri, co-lead author from the University of Oxford, underscored that while the risk score indicates the likelihood of developing dementia, it does not offer a definitive outcome.

She highlighted the varying significance of each risk factor, noting that while factors like older age (60 and above) and the presence of the APOE gene pose the greatest risk, modifiable factors such as diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure also play a crucial role.

For instance, an individual with all these factors would face an estimated risk approximately three times higher than that of someone of the same age without these risk factors.

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