Picture this: You’ve misplaced your keys again and you no longer feel comfortable in social settings you once enjoyed. For a patient experiencing dementia, these and other neurological symptoms can take a heavy toll on their quality of life.
While a cure for dementia is still out of reach, Canadian researchers have created an online tool geared towards people over 55 years old that can assess their brain health and provide strategies for minimizing the risk of being diagnosed with the condition.
The development and validation of the platform were described in a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, wherein researchers drew upon survey data from over 75,000 Canadians to construct the tool. They were particularly interested in lifestyle factors that may prevent or delay the onset of dementia such as a nutritious diet, exercise, not smoking and adequately managing any underlying chronic health conditions.
“What sets this dementia risk calculator apart is that you don't need to visit a doctor for any tests," said Dr. Stacey Fisher, lead author of the study. "People already have all the information they need to complete the calculator in the comfort of their home."
Among the factors taken into consideration in the team’s Dementia Population Risk Tool, or DemPoRT, are age, alcohol consumption, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, marital status, and stress. The DemPoRT algorithm enables users to understand their risks and modify their lifestyles accordingly.
The team has plans to expand the application of the algorithm for the general population as well.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has also made it clear that sociodemographic variables like ethnicity and neighborhood play a major role in our health,” explained Dr. Peter Tanuseputro, senior author of the study. “It was important to include those variables in the tool so policymakers can understand how different populations are impacted by dementia, and help ensure that any prevention strategies are equitable."