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This Simple 10-Minute Test Could Spot Early Signs of Dementia

When it comes to cognitive diseases, early detection is key. Knowing what you’re dealing with sooner, rather than later, allows health care providers time to create a treatment plan and consider interventions that could slow the progression of the condition. Often though, it’s difficult to determine whether potential initial symptoms are indicative of a problem, or nothing to worry about. (Who among us hasn’t put their reading glasses in the refrigerator, or called their spouse by the dog’s name?) That’s why a new test that can show early signs of cognitive decline in just 10-15 minutes, potentially leading to a more timely diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other disorders, is such good news.

Researchers at The Ohio State University created what whey call the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) test, which people can take in the comfort of their own homes, for free. The idea is that once folks fill out these forms, they can take the sheets to their doctors to get a baseline sense of their current cognitive state. Many of the questions may seem easy and resemble a lesson plan or worksheet you’d find in an elementary school, such as asking to name inanimate objects, draw specific figures, or do basic arithmetic. (Scribbling stick figures might seem simple, but it’s actually very important!)

Doctors, however, may be able to notice subtle inconsistencies in the test that could point to early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. The sooner that happens, the faster that person can get help. “New disease-modifying therapies are available, and others are currently being evaluated in clinical trials. We know that the earlier cognitive impairment is detected, the more treatment choices a patient has and the better the treatments work,” lead author Douglas Scharre, MD, explained in a press release.

If you take the test, keep in mind that it’s not something you take once and never revisit. “Any time you or your family member notices a change in your brain function or personality, you should take this test,” Dr. Scharre said. “If that person takes the test every six months and their score drops two or three points over a year and a half, that is a significant difference. Their doctor can use that information to get a jump on identifying the causes of the cognitive loss and to make treatment decisions.”

While taking this test isn’t an official diagnosis, it could give you an early warning that you need to see a specialist about some of the symptoms you’re experiencing. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and the sooner you bring up your concerns, the better!

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