Middle-aged to be offered brain tests to check for dementia

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Public Health England (PHE) stated that middle-aged people will be offered brain tests to determine the level of aging and help them adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Health professionals will make use of calculations to determine the ‘brain age’ of a patient. The results will be based on cholesterol levels, alcohol consumption, exercise regime and weight. This will help in determining if the patient’s lifestyle is affecting their risk of developing conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

These voluntary checks will commence within the next 18 months and will offer patients the opportunity to act early if their brain is aging faster than their biological age.

According to the lead on dementia at Public Health England, Dr Charles Alessi, the ‘personalised tool’ will allow middle-aged patients to understand the impact of their lifestyle on their overall health. He said the test is offering people the opportunity to become aware of the risk factors which could affect their health later in their life. It is a personalised manner to determine how risk factors, such as drinking and smoking may affect them and allows them to take action if required.

He said that people will not be forced to do anything after receiving the results, but they are aware that people are sensitive to dementia and are interested in ways of managing their lifestyles and risk in a more efficient way.

Dr Alessi stated that if people were to manage these risk factors in a better way, it could result in the delay of a range of medical problems, including heart disease, diabetes and dementia.

He added that the computer-based assessments are still in the early development stages, but will be offered by pharmacists and GPs.

If the assessments are successful, it could form part of the checks which are already on offer to those between the ages of 40 and 74.

According to the Department of Health, the number of people suffering with dementia could double by 2040 and exceed 1.5 million.

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Hilary Evans, said it is necessary to encourage people to think about the health of their brains in the same way they do about the health of their hearts. She said there is increasing evidence which suggests that it is possible to protect against a decline in cognitive abilities and possibly dementia by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. This implies that the individual has the power to control most of the risk.

Image Credit: Tim Sheerman-Chase

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