Saturday, June 25

How old is your brain? Take the dementia test

The Week
How old is your brain? Take the dementia test© MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty How old is your brain? Take the dementia testPublic Health England has announced that it’s working on a tool to help calculate people’s “brain age” by looking at lifestyle factors such as how much they drink, smoke and do exercise.Doctors believe that the computer-based test could help identify the risk of dementia in later life.Charles Alessi, Public Health England’s lead on dementia, told The Guardian that the test was designed to be educational.

“We are offering people an opportunity to know exactly how risk factors can influence the rate of decline of their cognitive functions,” he said. “Dementia is a whole group of conditions and we can manage some of the risks. We know, for example, smoking can accelerate cognitive decline.”

A similar test has already been developed by Dr Vincent Fortanasce, clinical professor of neurology at the University of Southern California. The 25-question test, first published in the Daily Mirror, is intended to give respondents a sense of their brain age, and help them understand whether they could do more to improve their mental fitness.

The test is included in full below. Note down how many times you answer yes and how many times you answer no, then your results will be revealed at the bottom. Note: this test should be considered a guide only. If you have any concerns, visit your GP.

1. I get seven or more hours of sleep each night.

2. I eat at least five or more servings of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants (citrus fruits, green peppers, spinach, broccoli, apples, tomatoes, kale) daily.

3. I eat at least one serving of blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries daily.

4. I eat baked or grilled fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and mackerel) at least three times a week.

5. I take fish oil supplements high in omega-3 fatty acids or flaxseed supplements at least five times per week.

6. I take folic acid supplementation with my daily multivitamin.

7. I take a low-dose of aspirin, which studies suggest might slow brain decline by maintaining blood flow to the brain, daily.

8. I drink red wine or grape juice at least five times a week.

9. I exercise most days of the week for at least 30 minutes each time.

10. I read challenging books, do crossword puzzles or Sudoku, or engage in activities that require active learning, memorisation, computation, analysis and problem solving at least five times a week.

11. My total cholesterol is less than 5 millimoles per litre (mmol/l).

12. My LDL (“bad”) cholesterol – that causes disease in arteries and reduces blood-flow to the brain – is less than 3mmol/l (your GP or practice nurse can carry out a cholesterol test and will take a blood sample either with a syringe or by pricking your finger).

13. I have “longevity genes” in my family, with members who lived to 80 and older without memory loss.

14. I am not obese (less than 1st4lbs overweight for a woman; less than 2st1lb overweight for a man).

15. I eat a Mediterranean style diet (high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, and olive oil as the source of fat; little red meat).

16. I use olive oil and no trans-fat spreads instead of butter or margarine.

17. I have never smoked cigarettes.

18. I have normal blood pressure.

19. I do not have diabetes.

20. I do not have metabolic syndrome (the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity).

21. I do not have a sleep disorder such as snoring or obstructive sleep apnoea or untreated insomnia.

22. Daily uncontrolled stress is not a problem for me.

23. I have a strong support group and enjoy many activities with friends, colleagues, and family members.

24. I have no problems with short- or long-term memory.

25. I’m ready to prevent Alzheimer’s and will do whatever it takes.

Results Add up the number of times you answered yes:

23–25 If you scored between 23 and 25, subtract 15 years from your chronological age to discover your brain age. The risk of dementia for people in this bracket is very low, Fortanasce says; they should maintain their good habits.

20–22 If you scored between 20 and 22 you should subtract ten years from your chronological age to discover your brain age. People in this bracket are doing well to take care of their physical and mental health, but there is still room for improvement.

15-19 If you scored between 15 and 19, your brain age is the same as your chronological age. Even though your brain age is good, it is still possible to develop dementia, so look at the questions you answered ‘no’ to, and consider whether there is room for improvement.

12–14 If you fall between 12 and 14 you should add five years to your chronological age to find out your brain age. The difference between your actual age and your brain age means that you have an increased chance of dementia, according to Fortanasce. If you are concerned, discuss the results with your GP and look at which categories in the test you could potentially do something about.

0–11 If you score in this bracket, add 10 years to your chronological age to find out your brain age. According to Fortanasce, respondents who fall into this category could potentially be at risk of dementia in later life. To find out more, visit your doctor. ·