Dementia: Online calculator could determine your risk – ‘You don’t need to visit a doctor’

Dementia: Expert discusses the signs and symptoms

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Dementia describes the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interfere with doing every day activities. There are different types, the most common type being Alzheimer’s disease. While dementia mostly affects adults, it’s not a part of normal ageing. There’s currently no cure for the conditions, but experts believe there are things you can do to reduce your risk, such as preventing diabetes and high alcohol intake.

Canadian researchers at The Ottawa Hospital, the University of Ottawa, the Bruyère Research Institute and ICES have built and validated an online calculator that empowers individuals 55 and over to better understand the health of their brain and how they can reduce their risk of being diagnosed with dementia in the next five years.

Their process has been published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and the calculator is available at

The researchers based the dementia calculator on survey data from more than 75,000 Ontarians.

Dr Stacey Fisher, study lead, performed the research largely in Ottawa while she was a PhD student, supervised by Dr Doug Manuel and Dr Peter Tanuseputro at The Ottawa Hospital.

She said: “What sets this dementia risk calculator apart is that you don’t need to visit a doctor for any tests.

“People already have all the information they need to complete the calculator in the comfort of their home.”

Factors in the Dementia Population Risk Tool (DemPoRT) include:

  • Age
  • Smoking status and lifetime exposure
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Physical activity
  • Stress
  • Diet
  • Sense of belonging
  • Ethnicity
  • Immigration status
  • Socioeconomic status of the neighbourhood
  • Education
  • Activities where assistance is needed
  • Marital status
  • Number of languages spoken
  • Health conditions

The calculator can be used by individuals to assess their dementia risk and help them modify their lifestyle.

The researchers also hope policy makers can use their algorithm to do the same thing for the general population.

Through research, the team has developed a tool that can predict the number of new cases in the community, identify higher-risk populations and inform dementia prevention strategies.

It will be used to support Canada’s national dementia strategy.

“This tool will give people who fill it out clues to what they can do to reduce their personal risk of dementia,” said Dr Tanuseputro.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has also made it clear that sociodemographic variables like ethnicity and neighbourhood play a major role in our health.

“It was important to include those variables in the tool so policy makers can understand how different populations are impacted by dementia, and help ensure that any prevention strategies are equitable.”

While the calculator was designed for use in Canada, it can be adapted for any of the 100 countries around the world that collect health survey data.

While the dementia calculator offers promise, it’s also important to be able to recognise the symptoms of the condition.

Common early symptoms that may appear some time before a diagnosis include:

  • memory loss
  • difficulty concentrating
  • finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
  • struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
  • being confused about time and place
  • mood changes

If you’re worried about memory problems or other symptoms, talk to your GP.

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