Can You Pass These Two Tests That Predict Dementia?
Dementia—it’s one of the most dreaded diseases of our time. About 5.8 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. And that number is expected to skyrocket to 14 million by 2050.
Determining if someone with memory problems or mild cognitive impairment is headed for a more devastating decline into dementia often involves in-depth cognitive testing. But there are a few other simple tests that can be quite telling. A pair of 2019 studies show that certain quick tests are useful in assessing a person’s risk of developing dementia or in ruling it out.
Sniffing Out Dementia
In a 2019 study that appeared in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, researchers assessed cognitive functioning and administered a smell test known as the Brief Smell Identification Test (BSIT). Losing the sense of smell is often one of the initial warning signs of impending Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms surface.
Previous research has found that people who have problems recognizing odors are more likely to have some of the changes in the brain seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This is because odor identification is processed in some of the same brain regions that are ravaged by the disease, including the hippocampus, which is involved in memory and learning.
The 2019 research team from Columbia University found that performing well on the cognitive test as well as the BSIT correlated to a very low risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, 96.5% of the study’s 749 elderly participants who performed well on both assessments did not develop dementia during the four years studied.
Time to Detect Dementia
Another simple tool that is used to screen for Alzheimer’s and other dementias is called the clock-drawing test. A clinician gives a person a blank sheet of paper and asks them to draw a clock that shows a specific time.
If the person can draw the clock accurately and indicate the correct time, it typically rules out dementia. However, if the clock doesn’t look correct, it could be a sign of a serious problem. Researchers have identified the following 6 clock-drawing errors that are indicative of cognitive trouble, such as dementia, with 88% accuracy:
- Wrong time
- Missing numbers
- Number substitutions
- Number repetition
- Missing hands
- Refusal to attempt the task
New research in a 2019 issue of Neuropsychology used brain SPECT imaging to investigate how clock-drawing ability correlates to cerebral blood flow patterns. The study found that individuals who didn’t perform well in clock-drawing had lower levels of blood flow in specific areas of the brain associated with dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. Low blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Why Brain Imaging Is the Ultimate Test
Functional brain imaging with SPECT is able to reveal abnormal patterns in the brain related to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias years or even decades before symptoms develop. Early detection allows you to make lifestyle changes that can delay the progression of cognitive problems and engage in treatment when it is most effective. The sophisticated imaging technology is also able to rule out dementia by detecting other issues—such as traumatic brain injuries, exposure to toxins, or brain infections—that may be the root cause of memory loss or other cognitive problems.
Test Your Risk
If you’re concerned about your memory or cognitive function and want to assess your risk in the comfort of your own home, try these 2 tests.
Test #1. Brief Smell Identification Test (BSIT)
Can you recognize the following 12 odors that are commonly used in the BSIT? To test your sense of smell, you can order a BSIT kit online.
- Paint thinner
Self-Test #2. Clock-Drawing Test
Get a blank sheet of paper and draw a clock that shows 10 minutes after 11. If your clock looks abnormal, or if there are any errors, it’s critical that you seek further evaluation.
At Amen Clinics, we use brain SPECT imaging, as well as cognitive testing, lab work, and other assessments to evaluate memory loss and screen for cognitive dysfunction, Alzheimer’s, and other dementias.
If you want to join the thousands of people who have already visited Amen Clinics and enhanced their brain function with our personalized treatment plans and Memory Rescue program, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.