I am sure you would want to know if you are at high risk for Dementia so that you could adjust your lifestyle to reduce the odds of developing this devastating disease. Well one day you may be able to. The BBC reported this week, that researchers can accurately identify people on track to develop Alzheimer's disease before symptoms appear. This detection, they say, could also help the progress of drug trials.
Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, in St Louis, Missouri, measured levels of one protein, called amyloid beta, in the blood of 158 adults aged over 50 to see if this matched levels found in brain scans. It did, but only 88% of the time - which is not accurate enough for a diagnostic test. So the researchers combined this information with two other risk factors for the disease - an age of over 65 and people with a genetic variant called APOE4, which at least triples the risk of the disease - the accuracy of the blood test improved to 94%.US scientists used levels of a protein in the blood to help predict its build-up in the brain.
UK experts believed the results were promising and possibly a step towards a reliable blood test for Alzheimer's to speed up dementia research but larger studies are needed first.
Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, affecting millions of people around the world mostly over-65s. There are currently no treatments to halt the disease and up to 20 years before people develop memory loss and confusion, damaging clumps of protein start to build up in their brains.
Currently, only costly and time-consuming (Pet) brain scans are the way to test for this build up in protein. Senior study author Randall J Bateman, professor of neurology, said this could now help screen many more people than expensive brain scans could. He said that that means participants can more efficiently be enrolled in clinical trials, which will help find treatments faster, and could have an enormous impact on the cost of the disease. Participants in trials need to have early Alzheimer's brain changes - such as build-up of amyloid - but no cognitive problems as yet.
There are ways to improve you odds of not getting the disease and that is to ensure a healthy lifestyle. Findings revealed at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference suggest that nearly everyone can lower their risk of dementia, even if it runs in the family, by living a healthy lifestyle. The study of nearly 200,000 people showed the risk fell by up to a third. The team at the University of Exeter said the results were exciting, empowering and showed people were not doomed to get dementia.
The study followed 196,383 people from the age of 64 for about eight years. It analysed people's DNA to assess their genetic risk of developing the disease. The study showed there were 18 cases of dementia per 1,000 people if they were born with high risk genes and then led an unhealthy lifestyle. But that went down to 11 per 1,000 people during the study if those high-risk people had a healthy lifestyle
What counts as a healthy lifestyle?
The researchers gave people a healthy lifestyle score based on a combination of exercise, diet, alcohol and smoking:
- Doesn't currently smoke
- Cycles at normal pace for two-and-a-half hours a week
- Eats a balanced diet that includes more than three portions of fruit and vegetables a day, eats fish twice a week and rarely eats processed meat
- Drinks up to one pint of beer a day
An Unhealthy Lifestyle:
- Currently smokes regularly
- Does no regular exercise
- Eats a diet that includes less than three servings of fruit and vegetables a week, and includes two or more servings of processed meat and of red meat a week
- Drinks at least three pints of beer a day
If your loved one is suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer's and you need assistance in caring for them at home, call our experienced team to find out what options of care might be suitable for your family.
This Blog is based on an article that appeared on BBC News 2nd August 2019.
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