Dementia Becoming Harder to Detect

Swedish researchers say 70 year olds are smarter than they used to be, making it more difficult to detect dementia. Scientists who have been studying 70 year olds for years say it's becoming harder to determine who will develop dementia in later years using current screening methods.

Even though the incidence of dementia has remained unchanged, the scientists say  tests that measure memory, speed, language, logic and spatial awareness..."worked well for the group of 70-year-olds born in 1901-02, the same tests didn't offer any clues about who will develop dementia in the later generation of 70-year-olds born in 1930."

The researchers had been following a large population of 70 year olds as part of the H70 study. When they compared test results of 70 year olds born in 1930; examined in 2000, the researchers found they performed better in the intelligence tests than study participants examined in 1971 and born in 1901 and 1902.

Health Care, Advanced Technology Makes 70 year olds Smarter

Part of the reason for the findings could be "better pre- and neonatal care, better nutrition, higher quality of education, better treatment of high blood pressure and other vascular diseases, and not least the higher intellectual requirements of today's society, where access to advanced technology, television and the Internet has become part of everyday life," explains Simona Sacuiu, resident in psychiatry at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and medical researcher.

"That's why it's important for people with memory problems to receive a thorough examination," explains Dr. Sacuiu. "If we are to identify dementia effectively at an early stage, we need good tools that include psychometric tests. However, these must constantly be adapted to new generations, as older people are performing better and better in standardised psychometric tests."

The study found that dementia is as common as it was 30 years ago, The research found memory was the only predictor of dementia in the H70 study, but far from many developed the disease. The findings suggest dementia is more difficult to detect because 70 years olds today are smarter than their predecessors.

NEUROLOGY 2010;75:779-785