Worldwide Advances on Dementia

Preventing dementia is a worldwide concern as rates of mental decline are climbing. While lifestyle changes can somewhat curb the risk of developing dementia, it is still a challenge to detect the most vulnerable population segments. A new risk index tool can predict dementia risk in older adults. Researchers from Finland and Sweden use a novel machine learning approach; they developed a tool which helps assess a person’s risk of dementia in order to determine the appropriate preventative measures. Using data collected from the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) study conducted in Eastern Finland, the researchers were able to identify comprehensive profiles for predicting the onset of dementia up to 10 years later. Participants underwent detailed health assessments including memory and cognitive tests. Although the tool is not intended to diagnose dementia, it does help detect those who would benefit most from prevention methods. Alina Solomon, lead researcher, stated: “The results of our study are very promising. We still need to validate this risk index in other populations outside Finland. Some of the next steps are to investigate if it works in people older than 80 years and if it can monitor changes in dementia risk over time, for example as a response to lifestyle interventions.”

Another advance regarding dementia occurred recently in a company in Iruma, a city north of Tokyo, where a novel way to keep track of senior citizens, with dementia – prone to getting lost, was introduced. The company developed tiny nail stickers, each of which carries a unique identity number to help concerned families find missing loved ones. Their fingers and toes get tagged with scan-able barcodes. The adhesive QR-coded seals for nails, part of a free service launched this month in Japan, measure just one centimeter (0.4 inches) in size. There already are ID stickers for clothes or shoes but dementia patients are not always wearing those items. Seals on nails is a great advantage. If an elderly person becomes disorientated, police will find the local city hall, its telephone number and the wearer’s ID all embedded in the QR code. The chips remain attached for an average of two weeks, even if they get wet. Japan has a rapidly aging population, expected to be 40% by 2060. For safety, discounts are already being offered for elderly citizens to hand in their driving licenses.

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