Researchers have developed a new tool that can help physicians track the cognitive performance of older adults at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia.
Alzheimer's -- the most common form of dementia -- is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions in the elderly.
The new tool, called the QuoCo (cognitive quotient) which uses percentile curves, helps health care professionals, especially family physicians, to determine a normal cognitive decline and distinguish the onset of a neurological disease.
It can also help them monitor cognitive decline in patients before irreversible damage occurs.
"Similar to 'growth charts' used in paediatrics, the QuoCo cognitive charts allow physicians to plot the cognitive performance of any patient based on age, education and score on the Mini-Mental State Examination, and track cognitive change over time," said Robert Jr Laforce from Quebec University Hospital Centre in Canada.
The new tool would allow physicians to intervene and potentially treat an older adult, Laforce noted in the paper published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
As dementia cases have reached pandemic levels, early detection of cognitive impairment remains the approach to disease management before irreversible brain damage occurs.
Family physicians, equipped with QuoCo, are now in a key position to contribute to this approach, the researchers said.
Dementia is a growing problem worldwide with many undiagnosed cases.
Although there are no cures, potential treatments are being tested and some risk factors, such as diet and exercise, can also be addressed to delay onset.