Take-home test may detect early signs of Alzheimer's

Counting quarters and naming animals are part of a quick written test that could help determine if you may be prone to Alzheimer's disease.

The SAGE test has been shown to be effective in spotting the early signs of cognitive decline, allowing patients and doctors to address conditions like Alzheimer's disease much earlier. Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Misplacing keys, forgetting the name of a new co-worker you were just introduced to, or trouble finding the right words during conversation. We've all been there. But when do such occurrences indicate early signs of Alzheimer's disease? Taking a quick test can help doctors decide if you need further medical attention, or if you're just naturally forgetful.

In a study conducted by Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, more than 1,000 volunteers -- all age 50 or older -- took the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) to detect early signs of memory and cognitive thinking impairments. The test helps physicians deduce clues to how well your brain behaves.

"Memory disorders researchers visited 45 community events where they asked people to take a simple, self-administered test to screen for early cognitive loss or dementia," according to a Wexner Medical Center press release. "Of the 1,047 people who took the simple pen-and-paper test, 28 percent were identified with cognitive impairment."

Signs of brain dysfunction include memory loss; language problems; disorientation to time; impaired sense of direction; changes to personality or mood; and difficulties in decision making.

"What we found was that this SAGE self-administered test correlated very well with detailed cognitive testing," said Dr. Douglas Scharre, who developed the test with his team at Ohio State. "If we catch this cognitive change really early, then we can start potential treatments much earlier than without having this test."

There are four forms of the SAGE test to choose from, but you only need to take one. They are all interchangeable and available in English, Spanish, and Italian.

Print out the SAGE test from the Wexner Medical Center Web site and answer the questions without assistance. The test takes between 10 and 15 minutes to complete.

Some of the questions in the SAGE test include:

  • How many quarters are in $8.75?
  • How are a bicycle and a train similar?
  • Write down the names of 12 different animals.

The tests also involve naming objects, drawing geometric shapes, telling time, solving math problems, and remembering today's date.

Since the answers to the tests are not available on the site, after completing it, take it to your primary care doctor who will score it and interpret the results. From there, your physician can decide to order more tests to evaluate symptoms.

"SAGE does not diagnose any specific condition," the Wexner Medical Center states. "The results of SAGE will not tell you if you have Alzheimer's disease, mini-strokes or any number of other disorders. But the results can help your doctor know if further evaluation is necessary."

 

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