A five-minute scan could be used to spot people at risk of dementia before symptoms appear, researchers claim.

Scientists used ultrasound scanners to look at blood vessels in the necks of more than 3,000 people and monitored them over the next 15 years.

They found those with the most intense pulses went on to experience a greater cognitive decline over the next decade than the other study participants.

Researchers hope it may offer a new way to predict cognitive decline.

An international team of experts, led by University College London (UCL), measured the intensity of the pulse travelling towards the brain in 3,191 people in 2002.

A more intense pulse can cause damage to the small vessels of the brain, structural changes in the brain’s blood vessel network and minor bleeds are known as mini-strokes.

Over the next 15 years, researchers monitored participants’ memory and problem-solving ability. 

Those with the highest intensity pulse (the top quarter of participants) at the beginning of the study were about 50% more likely to show an accelerated cognitive decline over the next decade compared with the rest of the participants, the study found. 

Researchers said this was the equivalent of about an extra one to one-and-half years of decline.

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