Online tests and quizzes don't work for dementia

Surf the web a little bit, and you're bound to see a link somewhere for an online Alzheimer's test.

But whatever you do, don't click on it.

I know it's tempting, especially if you think your memory might be starting to slip. And it's certainly easier than making an appointment to see a doctor.

But there's no single test that can check for early signs of dementia or Alzheimer's disease -- in person or online -- and anyone who offers you one is selling you something, even if the test itself is free.

And sure enough, most of the 16 online "Alzheimer's tests" examined as part of a new study led to some kind of sales pitch.

Even worse, three-quarters of them earned "poor" or "very poor" marks for scientific validity in spotting early signs of demetia, and all 16 got those same grades for ethical standards.

It's not just that online tests are inaccurate. It's that this diagnosis is so tricky that doctors -- even good doctors -- get it wrong at least a third of the time.

But while doctors and experts often get it wrong, there's one "expert" who tends to get it right. It's someone who isn't trying to sell you something, and is available to you anytime, anywhere and at no cost.

It's you.

One new study finds that older adults who appear healthy but are worried about memory loss are much more likely to have higher levels of beta-amyloid in the brain.

That's a protein with strong links to early signs of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

In other words, many of the seniors worried about early signs of dementia have a good reason to be worried -- because they do have at least one warning sign of the condition.

And if you're worried yourself, don't panic -- because I've got four steps you can take right now that can help minimize your risk and slow, stop or even reverse cognitive decline and dementia:

DOCUMENT: Take note of what's happening to you and when it happens, or have a loved one help keep track for you. You're looking for patterns of behavior and changes in behavior. Memory loss is, of course, the classic warning sign but also watch for confusion, being lost in familiar places, judgment problems and difficulty doing everyday things.

MOVEMENT: Exercise can help prevent dementia in healthy people. And if you're already suffering from cognitive impairment, exercise can help make sure it doesn't get any worse. In one new study, patients with cognitive impairment who got regular exercise saw fewer drops in scores on cognitive tests than those who didn't

SUPPLEMENT: Good nutrition can help prevent dementia. But when cognitive decline is already setting in, you need more -- higher doses of brain-friendly nutrients that you can't get from food alone, especially B vitamins. Emerging science shows how these vitamins can help slow dementia and even stop the damage in the brain linked to the disease.

APPOINTMENT: Make an appointment to see a holistic physician -- because many cases of dementia aren't dementia at all. Drug side effects, exposure to toxins (especially metals), poor nutrition, hormonal imbalances and more can all mimic dementia, which is why so many doctors often get the diagnosis wrong.

In many cases, these "non-dementia dementias" can be reversed or even cured completely -- but you have to act fast before the damage really sinks in, so be sure to make that appointment soon.