An ultrasound test that takes five minutes can be used to detect people who are at risk of dementia before symptoms develop.
It is the conclusion of a study that analyzed the blood vessels in the throat of more than 3,000 people and monitored them for the next 15 years.
They found that those who showed the most intense pulsations at the beginning of the study were those who experienced the greatest cognitive impairment in the following decade.
The researchers hope that their results will lead to a new way of discovering The cognitive impairment that leads to dementia.
The study, conducted by an international team of experts led by University of London (UCL), measured the pulse of the vessels that carry blood to the brain.
When the heart strikes it generates a physical "pulse" that moves through the body in a wave effect.
The vessels near the heart when they are elastic and healthy, the energy often decreases in this pulse to avoid reaching the most sensitive vessels in the body.
However, factors like aging and high blood pressure can cure these cases and reduce this protective effect.
As a result, a progressively stronger pulse can travel to the delicate vessels that deliver the brain.
And this may cause over time structural changes in the brain which can contribute to the development of dementia.
The research group measured heart rate in the vessels carrying blood to the brain in 3,191 people In 2002.
In the following 15 years, researchers conducted memory tests and ability to solve problems in the participants.
The researchers found that those who showed the most intense pulse (25% of the participants) at the beginning of the study had 50% more chances of showing accelerated cognitive impairment in the next decade, compared with other participants.
According to researchers, this represents a further deterioration of almost a year or a year and a half.
Cognitive impairment is often one of the first signs of dementia, but not everyone who experiences it develops the disease.
Treatments and interventions
The researchers argue that the test can offer a new way of identifying people at risk of developing dementia, and this can lead to previous treatments and to interventions in the lifestyle.
Evidence shows that control of blood pressure and cholesterol, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and not smoking can help prevent dementia.
Dr Scott Chiesa, one of the researchers at UCL, says: "The dementia is The end result of decades of injuries, so when a person has dementia it's too late to do something. "
"What we are trying to say is that you must intervene as early as possible, identify a way to see who really goes on to present dementia and focus on them."
The study, co-financed by the British Heart Foundation, does not contain data on how many people who developed dementia.
But researchers are now planning to use scanners magnetic resonance images (MR) to analyze whether the participants also showed structural and functional changes in the brain that could explain their cognitive impairment.
They also try to test if the scanners improve the risk assessment result of dementia that already exists.
Dr Carol Routledge, Research Director at Alzheimer's Research UK, says you still need to confirm If ultrasound can improve the diagnosis of dementia.
"What we know is that blood supply in the brain is extremely important, and maintaining a healthy heart and blood pressure is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia," he said.
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