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New test predicts Alzheimer's risk up to three years before symptoms appear

The Los Angeles Times article First-ever blood test identifies impending Alzheimer's disease was published on March 10, 2014.

Alzheimer's patient undergoes memory exercise in Spain
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

This is the newest and perhaps earliest predictor of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease before other symptoms noticeably occur.

The study's corresponding author Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD, is a professor of neurology and executive VP for health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center. Federoff has this to say about the new test.

“Our novel blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients, their families and treating physicians plan for and manage the disorder.

The study included 525 healthy participants aged 70 and older who gave blood samples upon enrolling and at various points in the study. Over the course of the five-year study, 74 participants met the criteria for either mild Alzheimer's disease (AD) or a condition known as amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), in which memory loss is prominent. Of these, 46 were diagnosed upon enrollment and 28 developed aMCI or mild AD during the study (the latter group called converters)."

The National Institute of Aging (NIA) provides a description of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily living. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear after age 60. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people.”

It is interesting that the NIA, which is part of the National Institute of Health (NIH), considers the disease to be irreversible. There are cases where severe cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s have been reversed. It is generally known that diet, exercise and mental activity slow the onset of many forms of dementia.

As is often the case, the conventional medical approach will look to pharmaceutical solutions. Alternative medicine will look toward prevention. There is some very useful information regarding the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia from the NIA. The physical changes in the brain that were discovered in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer of a woman that had died with what are now considered typical symptoms of the disease.

“Plaques and tangles in the brain are two of the main features of Alzheimer’s disease. The third is the loss of connections between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.

Although treatment can help manage symptoms in some people, currently there is no cure for this devastating disease.”

As discussed in the Alzheimer Basics from NIA, there are specific genes that can be inherited that often lead to early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Deterioration of genes as people age is another cause of dementia and specifically Alzheimer’s disease.

Until recently, even the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease was considered to be a matter of judgment. This is an excerpt from an online description of Alzheimer’s disease by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

“There's no specific test today that confirms you have Alzheimer's disease. Your doctor will make a judgment about whether Alzheimer's is the most likely cause of your symptoms based on the information you provide and results of various tests that can help clarify the diagnosis.”

The new test focuses on the levels of 10 specific lipids. This is not the first test that helps to determine if Alzheimer’s disease is present. A test based upon specific antibodies was announced in August 2011. The new test may provide earlier information about the risk of a particular person developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Another test was also announced in July, 2011 that used the presence of amyloid plaque as the key indicator.

Early detection allows earlier treatment or a change in lifestyle that may change the conditions in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s and loss of mental capacity.

The official position of conventional medicine is that Alzheimer’s is irreversible. There are documented examples that show that this is not always the case; Alzheimer’s has been reversed in some instances. There is also an opportunity to use diet, exercise and mental exercises to help maintain mental acuity.

There is a great emphasis by cardiologists and lipidologists to take lipids to a minimum. A recent recommendation that would have dramatically increased the number of people on statins has been rescinded, at least for the time being.

The brain needs certain lipids to function. Statins target overall cholesterol, which is a form of lipids, and they may be stripping lipids that are necessary for good cognitive functions. It would be good those that ran the study to go back and mine the data to see if there was a correlation among participants of use of statins and onset of Alzheimer’s disease and aMCI.

You can review the attached articles suggested by the author and the attached video to see the views held by those using alternative medicine approaches to improve brain functionality over time. The Ohio State University has helped develop a self-test that is very useful. Your life style will impact your long-term risks with regard to improved diet, moderate use of alcohol, regular exercise of your body and your mind.

The articles will be useful. Self-test for early signs of cognitive impairment. Do vitamins and supplements improve brain functionality? Diet for the brain.

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