A recent study compared risk assessment tools for heart disease, stroke and dementia to see which ones were better at predicting the risk for dementia.
The results showed that the heart disease and stroke risk tests were just as accurate, and easier to use compared to the dementia risk test alone when it came to predicting a person's decline in mental functional ability.
"Ask a doctor about your risk for dementia."
Sara Kaffashian, PhD, from the French National Institutes of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Paris, France, led a study on ways to predict the presence and development of dementia.
The Framingham Risk Score was designed to estimate any adult’s 10-year risk for cardiovascular (heart) disease. The risk score is a formula based on years of data from thousands of people stretching back to 1948.
A heart disease risk score is calculated with a person’s age, gender, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking status, diabetes status and the presence of any blood pressure medication.
There is also a Framingham vascular risk score to predict a person’s 10-year risk for having a stroke. The stroke risk score uses information about a person’s age, blood pressure, any blood pressure medication, diabetes status, smoking history, history of any heart disease and the presence of an irregular heartbeat.
A third test – called the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) risk score – is used to assess a person’s risk for developing dementia. The CAIDE is a mental functional ability test that assesses a person’s memory, reasoning, verbal fluency, vocabulary and general understanding of the world.
The CAIDE also takes into account a person’s age, gender, education, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, physical activity, body mass index (weight versus height) and the presence of the ApoE4 gene – a gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
In this study, the researchers set out to compare which of the three risk scores were better at predicting the 10-year risk for dementia in a group of men and women.
A total of 7,830 people, averaging 55 years of age, were assessed at the beginning of the study for their heart disease and stroke risks, and then assessed three times over 10 years for their dementia risk.
The results of the study showed that 7 percent of the people in the group were at risk for dementia, 12 percent were at risk for heart disease and 5 percent were at risk for a stroke.
“Higher cardiovascular disease risk and higher stroke risk were associated with greater cognitive (the mind’s ability to function) decline in all tests except for memory; higher dementia risk was associated with greater decline in reasoning, vocabulary and global cognitive (understanding) scores,” the authors said.
The authors concluded that the CAIDE dementia and both Framingham risk scores were able to predict the decline in the mind’s ability to function in late middle age. However, the authors continued, the Framingham risk scores may have an advantage over the CAIDE risk score in that they are easy to use and can gauge risk factors for mental decline early.
The Framingham risk scores can also give a primary care physician an idea of what a person should change to lower their risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke, which may also reduce the risk of developing dementia.
This study was published in April in Neurology.
The research was funded by Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation, Health and Safety Executive, the Department of Health, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the US National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The study authors declared individual funding support from various international, public research foundations. No conflicts of interest were reported.