New Alzheimer's Test Could Predict It 30 Years Beforehand

8 minute read

Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that we all worry about. This progressive disease currently affects over 5 million Americans and destroys memory as well as other important mental functions.  

Currently, there are medications and treatments to help with symptoms, but there is no cure. Recent research, however, may have found a way to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.  

This may be just what we need to start getting ahead of this neurodegenerative nightmare.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s can appear as early as thirty years before the first symptoms are noticed. Initially, it may seem like forgetfulness or light confusion, but with time the disease begins to rob you of more of your memory.

A woman helping her husband who is confused

Recent memories are typically the first to start disappearing. You might notice difficulties remembering things and have trouble with organizing thoughts, but this is easily passed off as normal signs of aging.

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Often loved ones and friends notice something is wrong before the individual does. There are several key changes to the brain that a person with Alzheimer’s will experience:

Memory: While a certain amount of memory loss and forgetfulness happens to the best of us, the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s is persistent and gets worse with time. People may forget conversations, routinely misplace items, repeat statements and questions often, and may have trouble finding the right words when needed.

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Reasoning: The disease makes it difficult to think and concentrate and multitasking becomes a real challenge. It may become difficult to manage finances and coordinate the daily running of a house, including paying bills on time.

Making Decisions: Judgements and decisions get harder to make, and responding effectively to everyday problems, like unexpected driving situations, can become challenging.

A happy man cooking at home

Planning: Activities that were once routine and required sequential steps (cooking a meal or playing a game) can become a struggle as the disease worsens. Sadly, after enough time passes, Alzheimer’s causes people to forget how to perform basic tasks such as dressing and bathing.

Behavior Changes: The brain changes can cause people to have altered personalities and behavior, such as social withdrawal, depression, irritability, mood swings, distrust in others, wandering, and changes in sleeping habits.

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The cause of Alzheimer’s lies in the presence of beta-amyloid plaques, which damage and destroy brain cells. As brain cells die, the brain begins to shrink.

Additionally, tangles form that interfere with the brain’s transport system, preventing delivery of essential nutrients to the cells. There are certain risk factors that are thought to be associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease such as age, genetics, gender, previous head trauma, lifestyle, and heart health.

A man pouring ketchup on fried food

Certain key factors have been identified as increasing your risk of heart disease, which can also increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s. These include:

♦ Lack of exercise

♦ Smoking or repeated exposure to secondhand smoke

♦ Obesity

♦ High blood pressure

♦ High cholesterol levels

♦ A diet that lacks fruit and vegetables

♦ Poorly managed type 2 diabetes

These risk factors have been linked to vascular dementia, which is caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain. If you can work to control these factors and stay heart and brain healthy, you may reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Ultimately there is no way for certain to predict who will develop the disease, so being able to detect it early would be a major advantage to getting in front of the disease.

The Newest Blood Test

The noninvasive blood test was designed to test for the presence of amyloid beta, which is a toxic protein known to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the buildup of this protein that is responsible for causing dementia.

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Individuals were tested who had varied levels of health, ranging from healthy to mild Alzheimer cognitive impairment. The test accurately identified individuals with the protein with an accuracy of 90 percent, which is better than any other similar tests developed thus far.

A middle aged woman at her doctor's office

There is currently no concrete test to determine early-onset dementia, so seeking supportive services is essential with Alzheimer’s. The medications currently available for Alzheimer’s patients do nothing to treat the underlying disease; they simply manage symptoms.  

Research continues to develop new therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer’s. While this test is a great step forward, it has been noted that not everyone with amyloid in their brains develops dementia and not every dementia patient will have amyloid present.

Moving Forward

Given the widespread occurrence of Alzheimer’s and the devastating effects it has on people’s lives, research continues for treatment strategies. Tests continue to be developed and improved in the hopes of one day identifying Alzheimer’s before it gets out of control.  

Early identification could mean that individuals have a chance to seek support and make changes in their life that will prevent the disease from progressing. As it stands, for now, the best chances you have of lowering the risk is by addressing issues that contribute to heart disease.

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Working to make changes that lower your blood pressure and cholesterol is a good start. It is also recommended to start exercising regularly and losing weight if you are obese.

A middle aged man running while his wife is riding on her bike

If you have any pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, you should take care of yourself and follow all medical advice pertaining to the disease. Eating a Mediterranean diet, which is full of essential oils and foods low in saturated fats, can greatly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and, therefore, neurodegeneration.

The Bottom Line  

Work to make your life enjoyable. If you notice symptoms of dementia or see them in a loved one, consider making the changes right away.  

Keeping yourself and loved ones active mentally, socially, and physically will help reduce your risks and could extend life. With a disease like Alzheimer’s that sneaks up on you, the best defense is to stay ahead of it.  

This is why scientists continue to search for early detection mechanisms. You don’t have to wait for that blood test to be developed, you can take control now and make the lifestyle changes necessary to keep your risk minimal.

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