UK researchers have developed a new and more accurate dementia scoring tool that can predict the risk of people in middle age going on to develop dementia within 14 years, according to a new study.
If validated in further studies, the UK Biobank Dementia Risk Score (UKBRDS) could be used to identify which people in their 50s are at high risk of developing dementia, so that they can be targeted for lifestyle interventions or clinical treatments to reduce their dementia risk, the study’s authors have said.
“It’s important to remember that this risk score only tells us about our chances of developing dementia; it doesn’t represent a definitive outcome”
The UKBRDS risk score is based on 11 risk factors for dementia: age, education, diabetes, depression, stroke, parental history of dementia, material deprivation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, male sex and living alone.
The researchers identified these risk factors through an analysis of long-term follow-up data from more than 176,000 people aged over 50 years who were recruited to the UK Biobank study in 2006-2010.
They used these 11 factors to generate the UKBRDS score. The researchers then tested the accuracy of this score using data from a separate group of 44,000 participants in the UK Biobank study, as well as data from 2,934 participants from another long-term follow-up study, the Whitehall II cohort.
The researchers found that the UKBRDS risk score could more accurately predict the risk of dementia onset within 14 years than three existing dementia scoring tools.
The study, published today in the journal BMJ Mental Health, concluded that “with further validation, the UKBDRS may be useful as a dementia screening tool for a wide range of middle-aged adults in either a clinical or research setting”.
Lead researcher on the study Professor Sana Suri from the department of psychiatry at Oxford University emphasised that the UKBDRS score could be used to identify people at high risk of dementia so that that they can reduce that risk.
She said: “It’s important to remember that this risk score only tells us about our chances of developing dementia; it doesn’t represent a definitive outcome.”
She added: “The importance of each risk factor varies and given that some of the factors included in the score can be modified or treated, there are things we can all do to help reduce our risk of dementia.”
She identified diabetes, depression and high blood pressure as risk factors for depression that could be modified through medical treatments and lifestyle interventions.
The researchers warned that the UKBRDS score would need to be tested across larger and more diverse groups of people before it would be recommended for use in clinical practice.