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Kyoto Univ. research team develops self-checklist for predicting risk of dementia

KYOTO -- A research team at Kyoto University here has developed a self-checklist to easily calculate an individual's risk score for developing dementia for the elderly.

By answering a checklist composed of 13 lifestyle-related questions such as "do you go out by yourself using a bus or train?" and filling in basic data including age, the test is unique in that it can be scored by the person themselves. By identifying risk at an early stage on one's own and adjusting lifestyle habits accordingly, the team aims for the checklist to be useful in preventing the development of dementia.

Kyoto University professor Yuichi Imanaka and researcher Lin Huei-Ru created the checklist as part of the large-scale Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JAGES) of the elderly headed by Chiba University professor Katsunori Kondo.

The JAGES was carried out in 2011 on 72,127 residents aged 65 or older of a government-designated city with a population of over 500,000. Participants replied to a "basic checklist" of 25 lifestyle questions drawn up by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare meant to prevent the need for nursing care. In a follow-up survey four years later, it was confirmed if participants had developed dementia or not.

Of those who were surveyed, 6,656 people, or 9 percent of the sample population, developed dementia. The team calculated which of the 25 questions had the most significant correlation with the onset of dementia, and came up with the 13 questions on the new checklist. A point system was then developed for those 13 questions based on the strength of their relationship with developing dementia. The Kyoto University team included additional scored data concerning the attendance of health checkups, age, gender and other basic personal information.

Some examples of questions on the checklist include "not going out using the bus or train (3 points)," "not withdrawing or depositing money from savings (2 points)," "not offering advice to friends or family (2 points), "being told you 'always say the same thing' or are otherwise forgetful (4 points)" and "having times where you do not know the current date (3 points)."

The team was able to confirm that those who score 10 out of a total of 62 points have a 1 percent chance of developing dementia in the next four years, while those who score 30 points have a 13 percent risk and 50 points a 50 percent risk.

"Those who have simply reached their 80s alone can score close to 30 points, but if they pay attention from a lifestyle perspective, they can reduce their risk to as much as 10 percent," said Kondo. "I would like this study to be the impetus for people and their families to be careful of the warning signs."

(Japanese original by Ai Yokota, Medical Welfare News Department)

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