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Would You Want to Know?

Americans fear Alzheimer’s disease more than any other condition including cancer, heart disease, stroke or any other life-threatening diseases according to opinion polls.  I’ve written a lot about this memory-robbing condition that affects more than five million people in America, and it’s the diagnosis no family wants to receive about an older loved one.  But if there were a blood test that could predict your loved one’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s, would you want to know that this disease is in your future?

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine have developed a blood test that appears to be 94 percent accurate in predicting Alzheimer’s.  The researchers not only looked for the genetic hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, APOE4, but also for signs of amyloid beta in the blood.  They followed up this blood testing with PET scans of study subjects’ brains to confirm the early tells of Alzheimer’s disease.  The test has not been approved by the FDA yet, but 94 percent is impressive.

So, why would we want our loved one’s to know that they were all but certain to develop this cognitive condition as much as two decades before symptoms appear?  Or you may even be asking yourself if you would want to know.  There may be no cure for the condition, but other research shows that early preventive steps can do a lot in stalling the onset of the most damaging symptoms of the disease.  With a 20 year head start, a lot can be done while we all await more effective treatments.

Here are the preventive steps:

  1. Get the test when it becomes available.
  2. Up diet to a Mediterranean menu or equivalent.
  3. Get in good physical shape and stay fit.
  4. Practice good sleep hygiene – 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly.
  5. Engage more socially for mental stimulation.
  6. Immerse yourself in music – sing or perform.
  7. Learn something new, work puzzles, challenge your brain.
  8. Moderate alcohol intake.

As I look at the list, it seems like a pretty good New Year’s Resolution for all of us, or if you already made and kept one, it’s never too late to start anew.  So, perhaps while we await FDA approval on the test, we all can work toward our better selves?

Charlotte Bishop is a Caregiver Coach, an Aging Life Care Advisor, a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.


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