Expatriate international health insurance policyholders may be able to discover if they are at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by having a brain scan.
A study published in the most recent online issue of Neurology, the American Academy of Neurology's medical journal, found the likelihood of suffering from this condition is linked to thinner regions in the brain's cortex.
This can be even determined in individuals who do not appear to be suffering from any current memory problems, the researchers found.
Investigators analysed 159 members of the public who were 76 years old on average and did not suffer from dementia.
They measured the depth of parts of the brain's cortex, choosing areas based on previous research that indicated these regions shrink among Alzheimer's suffers.
From this information, they classified 19 participants as having a high risk of developing early Alzheimer's disease, 116 at a moderate likelihood and 24 as being unlikely to have this ailment.
Within three years of the scan, 21 per cent of those deemed to have the greatest chance of suffering from the condition and seven per cent in an average risk group had experienced a cognitive decline, while none of those described as low-risk had.
Furthermore, 60 per cent of those deemed to have the largest chance of suffering from Alzheimer's disease had unusual levels of proteins linked to the ailment in their cerebrospinal fluid, compared to 36 per cent of the moderate group and 19 per cent of those with the smallest likelihood.
Susan Resnick, PhD, with the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore and author of an editorial that accompanied the piece, said: "The ability to identify people who are not showing memory problems and other symptoms but may be at a higher risk for cognitive decline is a very important step toward developing new ways for doctors to detect Alzheimer's disease."
The Alzheimer's Association notes common signs that someone has this condition include changes in personality and mood, confusion, lack of memory, withdrawal from social events, problems speaking and poor judgement.