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Poor Self-Rated Health Linked to Dementia

Study Shows People Who Rate Their Own Health as Poor Are More Likely to Develop Dementia

Rating Your Own Health continued...

The results, published in Neurology, showed those who rated their health as poor were 70% more likely to develop dementia than those who considered their health good. Those who rated their health as fair were 34% more likely to develop dementia.

Researchers found self-rated poor health was an even stronger predictor of future dementia risk in people without any memory problems. Those without any memory complaints who rated their health as poor were twice as likely to develop dementia as those who said their health was good.

The study also showed poor self-rated health was associated with an increased risk of dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease as well as vascular or stroke-related dementia.

Predicting Dementia

"Declaring that your health is not good clearly means something," Tzourio tells WebMD. "It could mean that you overall are not well, feeling less social, depressed, more anxious, or relying on drugs. Then, this process of losing social interaction [as a result of not feeling well] is part of the dementia process."

Previous studies suggest being socially and physically active may lower the long-term risk of dementia.

Researchers say people who rate their own health as poor may have a more difficult time participating in social and physical activities that might otherwise help prevent dementia.

Still, further large studies will be needed to better understand the link between self-rated health and dementia.

If those studies confirm these results, Tzourio says simply asking the question, "How do you rate your health?" may be a valuable tool for doctors and health care providers to be alerted to the risk of dementia in older people.

"It's a great self-contained question that gives a lot of powerful information," says Kellie Hunter Campbell, MD, assistant professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "Self-reported health has been shown to predict a whole bunch of outcomes."

Campbell says asking about self-rated health is an easy thing to do and could prompt a health care provider to screen for dementia in people that might not otherwise appear to be at risk.

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