NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. -- Recent research suggests that stress, lack of sleep, or chronic pain may increase our risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease as we age. Now a new study is tapping the growing popularity of cellphones among seniors to measure cognitive decline and help them take steps to prevent it.
Inez Vanable makes it a point to always try new things, at 90, she wants to stay sharp.
Vanabe told Ivanhoe, "My very dear friend who is about ten years younger than I am developed early onset Alzheimer's. We were such good friends, and then she didn't know me anymore."
Researchers sent Vanable and 500 seniors home with smartphones to advance brain science.
"They take very brief tests of mental function multiple times a day," detailed Richard Lipton, MD a neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
Five times a day the phone sends them a notification to ask them how they feel right at that moment.
Vanable said, "It also brought to my attention the fact that I need to get more sleep. I thought six was enough. They said eight hours better."
The survey also quizzes participants about their level of stress and chronic pain, which are factors for Alzheimer's disease. Researchers will take an average of the results to get a more accurate measure of very subtle signs of disease.
"If we identify people at high risk for developing dementia in the future, that creates a window of opportunity to intervene," explained Dr. Lipton.
Researchers say by engaging in activities that reduce pain and lower stress seniors may be able to delay cognitive decline.
Dr. Lipton said because drugs to treat Alzheimer's have fallen flat for the most part, prevention measures and information for those at risk is especially important.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.
Seniors and Smartphones: Predicting Memory Loss and More