Free online test shows how to halve Alzheimer’s risk

  • 20 Jan 2015
  • Reading time 3 mins
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One in four people over 50 are predicted to develop Alzheimer’s, an irreversible disease and the most common form of dementia, which afflicts 850,000 people in Britain. Currently there are no effective drug treatments, and none in development that look promising, however the good news is that it can be prevented. Leading dementia experts estimate that more than half the risk for dementia is caused by things we can change with only one in a hundred cases directly attributable to genes. Theoretically a person could halve their risk with specific diet and lifestyle changes. But how do you identify who is at risk and what specific steps they need to take to reverse their risk?

A new online Cognitive Function Test test that takes 20 minutes to complete both assesses a person’s risk from age 50, and gives personalised advice on steps to take to cut their risk. The free online test run by the charity has been a tried by 200,000 people and tested against standard memory tests used in GP surgeries and specialist memory clinics in a pilot study to identify those at risk by tracking subtle changes in memory as early as possible. Through a simple set of questions about diet and lifestyle the Cognitive Function Test also assesses a person’s most likely risk factors and the kind of specific changes they need to make to reverse that risk.

One in five (22%) of cases of Alzheimer’s are attributed to low levels of B vitamins, especially vitamin B12 found in animal produce, which becomes harder to absorb as you age often requiring supplementation. Also, one in five cases are attributed to low levels of omega-3 fats and fish consumption, according to research from the US National Institutes of Health. Other risk factors include a low intake of vegetables and fruits, rich in polyphenols, a lack of exercise and a lack of social and intellectually stimulating activity. If you don’t use it you lose it. In addition, a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, and having diabetes, increases risk. Drinking green tea rather than coffee may be associated with lower risk in the long term.

The Cognitive Function Test not only tests your memory but also assesses a person’s risk on a traffic light system, with ‘red’ risk factors being the ones most critical to address to benefit that individual. The goal is to achieve ‘green’ across all the known risk factors.

Your Prevention Steps

According to Professor David Smith, dementia expert from the University of Oxford and scientific advisor to the charity, “Not only does the test give people positive prevention steps to reduce risk in the long-term but also there’s an annual check up so people can track how diet and lifestyle changes impact on their cognitive function.” He hopes the results of hundreds of thousands of people doing the test will provide vital information to help develop a national prevention strategy.

The Cognitive Function Test can be done on any computer or laptop, but not on a mobile or smart phone. It is a screening test, not a diagnostic test. If you have serious concerns about your memory see your GP. For more details on the test see