Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

Risk index predicts dementia risk in older adults

October 15, 2009

A new “dementia risk index” can accurately predict which older adults will develop dementia within 6 years, according to a study in Neurology. Some of the factors that may predict dementia—age, poor performance on cognitive tests, and the apolipoprotein E ε4 gene—are well known. Others, such as ventricular enlargement, not drinking alcohol, and being underweight, are less well known. The tool could be developed for use in clinical and research settings to target prevention and treatment strategies for high-risk individuals.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, devised the index by studying 3,375 participants from the Cardiovascular Health Cognition Study, part of the larger Cardiovascular Health Study of people 65 and older. Of the participants, 14 percent developed dementia during the 6-year study. Fifty-six percent of participants with high scores on the 15-point index developed dementia, compared with 23 percent with mid-range scores and 4 percent with low scores.

The study lays the groundwork for development of a shorter, simpler index that would be easier to use in a doctor’s office, yet have the same predictive accuracy, the researchers write.


Barnes, D.E., et al. Predicting risk of dementia in older adults: the late-life dementia risk index. Neurology. 2009. Epub. May 13, 2009.

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