As the years roll on, the fear of complications in later life becomes ever more present. Perhaps the largest concern for people of older age is dementia, a syndrome that affects 10 million new people worldwide every year. Having a huge impact on those affected and their loved ones, dementia is incurable, and despite incredible advances in research throughout recent years, scientists are still unable to slow its onset.
One weapon we do have is that of predictive risk factors. According to studies, one-third of all dementia cases are preventable through minimizing risk factors and lifestyle choices, potentially saving millions of lives if action is taken swiftly.
Now, by accounting for known behavioral and pre-existing traits, scientists from Ottawa Hospital have been able to create an online calculator that is able to give a likelihood of developing dementia to people aged over 55. The calculator was developed and validated as part of a large study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
If you or a loved one is over 55 and would like a prediction, check out the calculator here.
To create an accurate predictive calculator that can be done at home without genetic data is no easy feat. In an effort to create the most accurate one possible, the researchers compiled the results of a large sample of 75,460 survey respondents to look for correlations and see just how close an algorithm could get. Within this sample, 8,448 cases of dementia were found, and an algorithm was applied to the cases to look for risk factors. These included age, substance intake (namely smoking and drinking), diet, predictors of mental health, socioeconomic status, and more.
When tested on the sample, the algorithm was extremely successful in identifying people with dementia based on inputs, with values between predicted and observed outcomes never being more than 20 percent of each other.
As with all studies, the calculator has limitations. The researchers expressed concern that the model may be "overfitted" (this is where the model is too fitted to one sample, and may not be able to adapt to new data), and there are other risk factors strongly correlated with dementia that were not included.
As such, the DemPoRT calculator result is not certain, nor should it severely panic you if the result is unfavorable. Instead, use it as a tool to adapt your lifestyle and behavior to the best way possible, to ensure the best chance of staying healthy into later life.