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Research from University College London uses information available to most doctors to calculate the risk of someone in their 60s or 70s developing dementia in the next five years.

One of the great challenges when it comes to dementia is getting a timely diagnosis. In fact, if many people could know if there was a chance they might develop the condition in the next few years, they’d probably make steps to improve their lifestyle.

That’s the hope that researchers from University College London have after developing a formula that your age, weight, blood pressure, history of heart disease and the medicines you’re taking (all data held by your GP) to calculate what’s known as a ‘dementia risk score’.

Researchers collected data from nearly one million British patients to create an algorithm that could help them come up with the risk score. They then tested it on 260,000 patients and found it 85% effective for ruling out the risk of dementia, and 78% accurate in predicting the likelihood of developing in the next five years in people in their 60s and 70s.

Researchers believe it could be a useful tool for reassuring patients who have a very low risk of dementia – essentially the ‘worried well’ – but also to help encourage those who may have a risk to take steps to improve their lifestyle.

What’s more, as the test uses information gathered by your GP during your routine visits it would be simple and easy to carry out, requiring no extra work or costs.

Dr Matthew Norton of Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

‘A test to identify accurately those with a high risk of dementia could encourage people to adopt lifestyle changes that may reduce this risk. It could also help identify people to take part in clinical research.

‘While this test goes some way to predicting risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia in people aged 60 to 79, the approach is not 100 per cent accurate and needs further investigation.

‘It needs longer follow-up periods to understand its potential for use within the UK healthcare setting.’