One of the reasons why there are so few effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s is because they are only identified once symptoms appear, but degeneration may have begun years previously.
The UK Biobank is a biomedical database and research resource containing anonymised genetic, lifestyle and health information from half a million UK participants aged 40-69.
It also collects data from a series of tests including problem-solving, memory, reaction times and grip strength.
People who went on to develop Alzheimer’s scored worse than healthy individuals when it came to problem-solving tasks, reaction times, remembering lists of numbers, prospective memory and pair matching.
Senior author Dr Tim Rittman said the findings could help identify people who can participate in clinical trials for potential new treatments.
And with the right people, he said, “we’ll have a better chance of seeing if the drugs are effective”.
He recommended, “anyone who has any concerns or notices that their memory or recall is getting worse to speak to their GP”.
Around 900,000 people are living with dementia in the UK and numbers are increasing.
The study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal Of The Alzheimer’s Association.