Every 66 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Despite billions invested in promising cures, scientists have yet to identify a drug that will reverse the effects of the disease.  New hope is provided by two recent studies indicating that blood tests might help with early diagnosis.

Last summer, scientists at Washington University in St. Louis announced a blood test that is effective in detecting Alzheimer’s decades before someone shows physical symptoms..  Then, early this year, a Japanese/Australian research team independently published a study about a blood test that identifies Alzheimer’s Disease in nine out of ten cases.  The fact that the blood test was independently validated by a separate research group gives it tremendous credence.

The main sign of Alzheimer’s in the brain is the buildup amyloid beta protein plaques. Scientists do not know for sure, but there is a strong belief that this toxic compound causes the disease.  Amyloid has been the main target of Alzheimer’s-related drug trials. The scientists estimate that this blood test will detect amyloid up to 20 years before someone shows Alzheimer’s symptom

What good does this do us? There are many lifestyle behaviors that we can adopt that will significantly reduce the chance that Alzheimer’s develops fully. One researcher, Dale Bredesen, whose book was featured in an earlier Caring Corner post, even proposes that with aggressive behavior management, Alzheimer’s can actually be reversed.

These basic practices include sound nutrition, staying mentally active, getting good sleep and regular exercise.  The lifestyle modifications proposed by Dr. Bredesen are very involved but they provide many health benefits in addition to likely reversing cognitive decline. If you believe you are at risk for this disease, the effort to make these changes in your life could be well worth the investment.

Caring Corner

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About the Author:

Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.

They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist. In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.
Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.

Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones. He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio. He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.