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Back to the Future: Predicting the Onset of Alzheimer’s

Back to the Future: Predicting the Onset of Alzheimer’s

older couple

You don’t need Marty McFly to answer this one for you!

Alzheimer’s — it’s a scary and often misunderstood word. You probably know that it’s appeared in movies like The Notebook, or that it renders your memory helpless, but did you know it’s also the sixth leading cause of death within the United States? Despite its prevalence, there is still a lot that remains unknown; so how do you protect yourself against a mystery ailment?

What We Knew

Alzheimer’s is a disease that has no cure, and worsens gradually from its onset until death. It can be very difficult to predict prior to symptoms showing: requiring spinal taps and MRIs that are expensive and not always accurate. Although it typically affects people over the age of 65, it can occur in healthy men and women much younger.

Common early-onset symptoms include confusion, irritability, short-term memory loss, aggression, and mood swings. The symptoms can vary and change as the disease worsens, and a diagnosis is usually reached following memory and cognition tests. Once a diagnosis is reached, usually following the onset of symptoms, the life expectancy of a person affected by Alzheimer’s shortens to approximately seven years.

What We Know Now

Although there is no clear cause, progression, or cure for the disease, not all hope is lost. A recent study has revealed potential answers. Dr. Howard Federoff, senior author and neurologist at Georgetown University Medical Center, said the study “is a potential game-changer. My level of enthusiasm is very high.”

So what does it do?

Instead of the expensive and inaccurate options that were previous testing methods, researchers have discovered that something as simple as a blood test could reveal a person’s inclination towards Alzheimer’s. During the study, the researchers examined the patient’s byproducts of DNA and RNA—like fats and proteins. After checking the blood of hundreds of healthy people at least 70 years old, the researchers waited five years and checked back in.

Of the patients that had developed Alzheimer’s, there was one commonality: out of the 100 fats found, this particular group of people were showing low levels of a group of 10 fats, as compared to the healthy seniors. Then, researchers compared their findings against the blood samples of people who have been living with Alzheimer’s.

The results were outstanding, with over 90% accuracy on patients that had not even begun to show symptoms. With such a low cost and the potential to lead researchers to a cure, the blood test for Alzheimer’s is quickly becoming a celebrated medical discovery this year.

So how can you start fighting now? While the blood tests haven’t been approved as a testing just yet, you can still talk to your doctor about the disease. You can also help fund more research by donating to the Alzheimer’s Foundation. For more information on Alzheimer’s, or if you have concerns, please contact us.