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New Risk Scale Identifies Normal Aging vs. Dementia

Written by Alissa Sauer
 about the author
2 minute readLast updated April 10, 2023

Many of us can admit to having a “senior moment” from time to time, but the threat of a looming dementia diagnosis can be a reality for many families. The Mayo Clinic has developed a scale that will help identify those who are at risk for developing dementia, hopefully encouraging them to seek early intervention.

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Normal Aging vs. Dementia

While many families and seniors joke about memory loss as we age, the fact of the matter is that some seniors will eventually face a devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia in their lifetime.
Some of the startling statistics compiled by the Alzheimer’s Association show that:
  1. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and until a cure is found, nearly 13 million Americans will likely have the disease by 2050.
  2. 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
  3. Over 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.
It is not surprising that so many seniors are left wondering if they are experiencing memory loss or if a lapse is a sign of something more serious.

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Identifying seniors at high risk for dementia

A scale developed by the Mayo Clinic seeks to help seniors answer that question while also identifying those who are most at risk for developing dementia.
The Mayo Clinic research observed 1,449 seniors from Minnesota who did not report experiencing any cognitive problems over the course of 5 years. During the study, 401 of those participants developed mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Researchers then used their observations to develop a risk scale that will let people know how likely they are to develop dementia, so that those most at risk will seek early intervention.
The scoring system took into account various factors, including:
  • Highest level of education
  • History of anxiety
  • History of depression
  • History of diabetes
  • History of smoking
  • History of stroke
  • Regular medications
  • Slow gait
  • Presence of the APOE gene
Ronald Peterson, an author of the study, stated, “This risk scale provides an inexpensive way for doctors to identify people who should be referred to more advanced testing for memory issues or may be better candidates for clinical trials. Early detection of individuals at high risk of developing memory and thinking problems that we call mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is crucial because people with MCI are at a greater risk of developing dementia. This allows for a wider window of opportunity to initiate preventative measures.”


Meet the Author
Alissa Sauer

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