New Study Finds Key to How to Diagnose Alzheimer’s Early Before Onset
8 minute read
Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of people in the United States and is devastating to the individual and their loved ones.
The disease is thought to be caused by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques. The rate at which these plaques form may hold the answer to detecting the disease before it reaches the official diagnosis threshold.
New research has found that therapies used before critical amyloid levels are reached could hold the answer to slowing the progression of the disease.
Staying One Step Ahead
With there being no definitive cure for Alzheimer's disease, researchers are dedicated to finding any means of being able to prevent its onset, or at least delay its progression.
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Recent discoveries have shown that it may be possible to intervene before the beta-amyloid plaque levels associated with the disease reach a critical level. Previous treatment options aimed at lowering amyloid levels have been unsuccessful, and it is now thought that this was due to bad timing.
Some patients are considered to be “amyloid-positive” and at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, but treatments have still been given too late to be successful. At this stage, memory problems are already occurring and, to be truly effective, therapy needs to be applied before this point is reached.
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The new studies show that traces of amyloid can be found before memory issues are noticed. Detecting these traces before accumulation begins stands to be our best chance of beating Alzheimer’s.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is not made until amyloid plaques have already formed, and at this stage, there is little that can be done to delay the course of the disease. Beta-amyloid pieces come from larger proteins found in the fatty membrane surrounding nerve cells.
Knowing this means we can identify when numbers reach unsafe levels. If treatment can be applied before the accumulation begins, it is possible that onset of the disease and cognitive impairments can be delayed, maybe even prevented.
Slowing Alzheimer’s Down
Amyloid traces can be identified before they accumulate and before signs of memory impairment are noted. While research still has some ground to cover in terms of how to identify them early enough, progress is being made.
Alzheimer’s is debilitating emotionally and physically, so it is important to slow or stop it before it progresses too far. As research continues to stay one step ahead, there are additional steps you can take to lower your risk of the onset of this disease:
Exercise for Your Brain
Regular physical activity can reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s by 50 percent. Exercise also slows cognitive deterioration in those already diagnosed. As blood flow improves, your brain benefits from the stimulation of new connections as well as maintenance of old ones. If it has been a while since you exercised, start off slow to make sure you do not get discouraged.
Eating a Healthy Diet
Inflammation is a major contributing factor to the development of Alzheimer’s. The easiest way to curb and control inflammation is through dietary changes. There is a strong link between metabolic disorders and the brain’s signaling processes, showing how what you eat can affect brain function.
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An anti-inflammatory diet involves:
♦ Cutting down on sugar intake, making sure to watch out for hidden sugars in processed foods
♦ Avoiding trans fats which trigger inflammation as well as oxidative damage, both of which damage brain cells and tissues
♦ Increasing omega-3 intake: DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid, can help to prevent Alzheimer’s by reducing beta-amyloid plaque formation.
♦ Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables: These foods are the best sources for antioxidants and phytonutrients, which help to scavenge free radicals, thus protecting your brain from oxidative damage.
♦ Supplemental support: Certain supplements have been shown to boost brain health and can help prevent onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Humans are naturally social, so isolation deprives your brain. The more disconnected you become, the more at risk you are for cognitive decline.
Reach out and volunteer, join a group, get to know your neighbors, and make regular dates with friends. Staying socially connected keeps your brain connected.
An active brain is a healthy brain, so you want to keep yourself challenged and stimulated. Studies have shown that regular mental stimulation improves cognitive function in older adults and can prevent dementia.
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Try learning a new craft or hobby, start taking new routes to old places, do puzzles and strategy games, and practice memorization and recall tasks.
Get Quality Sleep
Disrupted sleep is not just a symptom of Alzheimer’s; it also seems to contribute to it. Poor sleep is linked to increased beta-amyloid levels, and this raises your risk of accumulation into dangerous plaques.
Additionally, good sleep is essential for memory formation and pushing harmful toxins from the brain. To make sure you get a good night’s rest, do not eat too late, avoid electronic stimulation and the blue light waves from TVs and devices, establish a regular sleep schedule, try a relaxing bath, or set the mood with essential oils and dim lights.
Persistent stress takes a toll on your heart, body, and brain. Chronic stress can cause shrinkage in the brain, which diminishes function and increases your risk for Alzheimer’s.
With some simple stress management techniques, you can keep your brain relaxed and resistant to dementia. Make sure you practice deep breathing or relaxation techniques, like yoga and meditation.
You also need to make sure you schedule fun activities to keep stress from interfering with your physical and mental health.
The Bottom Line
With some lifestyle changes, you too can lower your risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Research has switched focus from treatment to prevention in the hopes of slowing the prevalence rates.
You too should start thinking about prevention using the six key factors discussed. Daily changes that incorporate these will keep your brain younger, stronger, and gives time to researchers to find that definitive prevention strategy.