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Blood Test to Help Diagnose Dementia?

New research from King’s College London claims that predicting the risk of an individual developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia may be possible through a blood test that measures biological age. According to Professor James Timmons, who led the research, the blood test suggests that people who suffer from dementia have aged at a faster rate than others, and the healthy ageing genes have failed to activate in them. It is these people who are likely to be at greater risk of developing dementia in the future, and it is hoped that early identification will aid intervention and treatment.

Care Home Resident with staff

The Research

More than 150 markers of gene activity thought to be linked to good health in 65-year-old’s were identified by scientists who analysed thousands of brain, blood and muscle samples. From this, they were able to produce a rating system that could be measured by the blood test which was given to over 700 healthy 70-year-old people.

The scores varied widely, showing that chronological age is very different from biological age. People with high scores tended to have better kidney function, mental ability and longevity over a period of 12 years. Low scores were associated with poorer physical and mental health, including Alzheimer’s. It is thought that it may be possible to identify those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other dementia’s years before any symptoms become evident, and this would help with early treatment and care.

Biological Age

Biological age is measured by the rate at which deterioration in the mind’s and bodies functions occurs, and this can differ greatly between people of the same chronological age. Research has found that a higher biological age is associated with a higher pace of biological ageing and that both are linked to poorer cognitive and physical function and to looking older and feeling less healthy.

Although this new blood test has made it possible to measure biological age objectively, and it is hoped that it will help to alert medical professionals to early signs of dementia, it is not yet widely available, and there is more research to be carried out to identify why some people are more at risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease than others.

Healthy Ageing

The current advice on healthy ageing is to take regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight and eat a good balanced diet to ensure that you stay in good health for as long as possible. It is unclear whether there are any medical interventions that can slow down the ageing process, but this new research may reveal some insights into the process of ageing and go some way towards explaining why age-related health conditions affect some people more than others.

There are around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia, and many of these will need care in a residential or nursing home at some stage during their lives. There are many dementia care homes that specialise in care for people with dementia, some of which fall within the portfolio of Balcombe Care Homes. For private care homes to become dementia care homes, they need to have specially trained staff and meet the requirements of the Care Quality Commission’s standards for the particular service users that they cater for.

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