Harvard Men's Health Watch

Online Alzheimer's tests get "F" from experts

Many online tests for Alzheimer's disease are inaccurate, unscientific, and unethical, according to a study presented at the recent Alzheimer's Association's International Conference in Boston.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada evaluated online tests that claim to determine if a person has signs of Alzheimer's disease. They scrutinized a representative sample of 16 websites, which the researchers did not name. A panel of experts rated most of the sites "poor" or "very poor" in their ability to diagnose Alzheimer's disease based on current scientific understanding. The tests also fell short on ethical measures, such as explaining the site's privacy policy or disclosing that companies were using the tests to market products. However, the tests did a pretty good job of presenting the material in a usable, understandable form for older people.

If you have concerns about your memory, talk to your doctor. Diagnosing Alzheimer's disease requires a range of tests and an expert to interpret and explain the results. Online testing can be harmful for many different reasons. For example, they can trigger fears about the results or lead people who notice memory problems to buy ineffective dietary supplements or delay contacting a doctor.

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