New Test Could Reveal Dementia Risk

David Ginenthal
David Ginenthal, 80, who is trying to stay active to combat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. (LaPook EN piece)

He power lifts. He teaches ballroom dancing. But 80-year-old David Ginenthal is also losing his memory.

"I don't remember dates," he said. "I have to write things on my calendar."

Ginenthal is in the first stages of Alzheimer's disease, but is doing everything he can to build his body to protect his brain, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.

"I don't want to give up my dancing," Ginenthal said.

Today, researchers report that a new test indentifies with 88 percent accuracy those patients 65 and over who are likely to develop dementia.

"This is the very first tool that is trying to put together all of the different known risk factors and to try and come up with one single score," said Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, the head of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University.

More than 3,000 elderly patients were screened for risk factors like older age, poor performance on cognitive tests, and, surprisingly, being underweight. Other warning signs were an abnormal brain scan, a thickened carotid artery, and genes linked to Alzheimer's disease. Over half of the patients in the highest risk group developed dementia within six years.

"People could be reassured or, if that are at high risk, they could possibly start planning for the future," said Deborah Barnes, the lead study author.

With studies suggesting that exercise and healthy lifestyle can slow progression of the disease, Ginenthal is determined to stay active. Researchers hope this new test will enable others to get ahead of the disease.

"It doesn't mean you lay down and you cry and you die and you give up on everything," Ginenthal said." You go on with your life and you do the best you can."

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    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for CBS News.