92 year old Ali Haydar Cilasun (R) holds the hand of carer Guven Asmacik (L) in his room at an Aliacare home for the elderly in Berlin on October 8, 2013. The Aliacare home offers bilingual services for German and Turkish elderly people. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN        (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
What is dementia?
01:16 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

A five-minute neck scan could predict a person’s risk of developing dementia a full decade before symptoms emerge, researchers have said.

The test, which analyzes the pulse of blood vessels in the neck, could become part of routine testing for cognitive decline, according to the study by scientists at University College London (UCL), who presented their work Sunday at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific conference.

A group of almost 3,200 patients, aged 58-74, had ultrasounds on their necks in 2002, before having their cognitive functions monitored for up to 14 years, from 2002 to 2016.

People with the most intense pulses, which pointed to a greater and more irregular blood flow, were up to 50% more likely to suffer reduced cognitive functions, the research found, because the strength with which blood traveled into their brains caused damage to the brain’s network of blood vessels.

Pulses become more intense when arteries near the heart are worn down – usually by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and drug use – and can no longer “cushion” the blood flow coming from the heart.

“If you can detect [the risk] in people in mid-life, it really gives an impetus to those people to change their lifestyle,” said Dr. Scott Chiesa, post-doctoral researcher at UCL.