Harvard Men's Health Watch

In the journals: No long-term gain from early dementia testing

There is no strong evidence that widespread, routine testing for dementia in people 65 and older is helpful in the long run, according to a draft recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
(USPSTF). The USPSTF makes recommendations to primary care doctors.

Doctors can screen people for dementia by administering simple tests to look for subtle changes in memory and mental skills—even in people who still behave and function at a normal level for their age. The tests may catch the earliest signs of dementia, before really noticeable symptoms show up.

But does identifying mental decline that early lead to better outcomes in the end? The hope would be that starting medication and implementing changes in diet and lifestyle might slow the progression to full-blown dementia—usually Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia in older people. The USPSTF reviewed the evidence and found no clear proof that earlier diagnosis provides benefits to people with dementia or their families, or allows doctors to offer better treatment.

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