Washington: Researchers have developed a new scoring system to help determine who may be at a higher risk of developing memory and thinking problems that can lead to dementia.
The scoring system took into account factors that could be easily obtained from medical records, such as years of education, history of stroke or diabetes, and smoking.
Factors were assigned a score base on how much they contributed to the risk of developing thinking problems.
"Our goal is to identify memory issues at the earliest possible stages," said Ronald C. Petersen at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minneapolis.
"Understanding what factors can help us predict who will develop this initial stage of memory and thinking problems, called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), is crucial, because people with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia," Petersen explained.
The study that appeared in journal Neurology involved 1,449 healthy people between the ages of 70 and 89.
In the beginning of the study and at visits every 15 months for an average of 4.8 years, they were given memory and thinking tests.
At least 28 percent of them were found to develop mild cognitive impairment.
When the women's scores were divided into four groups, the lowest group had risk scores of less than 27 and the highest had scores of more than 46.
For both men and women, those in the highest group of risk scores were seven times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those in the lowest group.
"This risk scale may be an inexpensive and easy way for doctors to identify people who should undergo more advanced testing for memory issues or may be better candidates for clinical trials," Petersen concluded.