Many people experience forgetfulness as they age, but it’s often difficult to tell if these memory issues are a normal part of aging or a sign of something more serious.
In a new study from The Ohio State University, researchers found that a simple, self-administered test can identify the early, subtle signs of dementia sooner.
This earlier detection by the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE test) is critical to effective treatment, especially as new therapeutics for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are being developed and approved.
It allows doctors to get a baseline of their patients’ cognitive functioning, and repeat testing allows them to follow their memory and thinking abilities over time.
The eight-year study followed 665 consecutive patients.
Researchers found that the SAGE test accurately identified patients with mild cognitive impairment who eventually progressed to a dementia diagnosis at least six months earlier than the most commonly used testing method called the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).
Among the 164 patients with baseline mild cognitive impairment, 70 patients converted to dementia.
This is a 43% conversion rate over three to four years which is similar to rates from other academic center-based studies.
The distribution of dementia diagnoses included 70% Alzheimer’s disease dementia, 7% Lewy body dementia, and 9% pure or mixed vascular dementia.
The test can be taken anywhere whenever there are cognitive concerns. It takes only about 10-15 minutes to complete, and the four interchangeable forms are designed to reduce learning effects from recurrent testing over time.
The cognitive domains tested with the 11-item test include orientation, language, calculations, memory, abstraction, executive function, and constructional abilities. The MMSE does not test abstractions or executive function abilities.
The team says any time you or your family member notices a change in your brain function or personality you should take this test.
If that person takes the test every six months and their score drops two or three points over a year and a half, that is a significant difference.
Their doctor can use that information to get a jump on identifying the causes of the cognitive loss and to make treatment decisions.
More than 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and those numbers are expected to rise to more than 13 million by 2050.
If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about the blood test that can predict dementia, Alzheimer’s 5 years early, and findings that one year of this exercise training may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about 2 personality traits that may protect you from Alzheimer’s disease and more, and results showing that some diabetes drugs may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study is published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy. One author of the study is Dr. Douglas Scharre.
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