The sooner the diagnosis is made, the faster it will be possible to intervene and the rate of deterioration of mental functions, that is, the progression of the disease, can be reduced, according to experts.
A simple logic and memory test could lead to early diagnosis of dementiaabout 10 years before doctors notice the first symptoms of the disease.
Dementia can present even a decade before its clinical manifestation
experts from the University of Cambridgeaccording to the Times of London, found that people who performed poorly on certain problem-solving and memory tests were nine years earlier more likely to suffer from certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Timothy Rittman, a professor at the University of Cambridge, the finding could lead to simple tests targeting those most at risk. As a result, the intervention will begin immediately. At the same time, new drugs will be tested for the early stages of the disease, giving more chances for a significant reduction in the rate of disease progression.
The researchers analyzed data from 500,000 adults aged 40 to 69 from the Biobank of Great Britain. In addition to collecting information about their health, the experts put the participants through a series of tests, including problem-solving, memory tests, reaction times, and grip strength (bra-de-fer).
Additional information was also collected on their weight fluctuations and the number of drops they had in recent years. The scientists then compared them to information collected five to nine years earlier. As analysis of the data shows, people who developed Alzheimer’s disease scored lower than healthy people on tests of problem solving, reaction times, number memorization, prospective memory (ability to remember what to do after a certain amount of time).
The same was true for people who developed a rarer form of dementia known as frontotemporal dementia, the researchers found.
“When we looked at the patients’ histories, it became clear that they were experiencing cognitive decline several years before their symptoms became apparent and they were diagnosed. The deficiencies were often subtle, but involved various aspects of cognition. This is a step toward possibly testing people who are most at risk, such as people older than 50, or people with high blood pressure or who don’t get enough exercise. The goal, always, is to intervene at an early stage to help them reduce their risk.”explains Dr. Noll Swadiwoodhipong, a professor at the University of Cambridge who led the study.
Currently, there are few treatments and interventions that manage to reduce the rate of progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Experts stress that this is partly because such conditions often only diagnosed when symptoms appearwhile the underlying problem may have started years, even decades, before.
This means that by the time patients enter clinical trials, it may already be too late to change the course of the disease. Until now, it was not clear whether changes in brain function could be detected before the onset of symptoms.
David Thomas, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UKexplain what “it is increasingly clear that the best chance of changing the course of the diseases that cause dementia lies in intervening in their early stages”.
Health services do not usually offer the necessary tests to detect changes in brain function that occur before symptoms such as those reported in this study are felt. In fact, more than a third of people over the age of 65 living with dementia remain undiagnosed. The study findings were published in the scientific journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.