Is There a Reliable Test for Alzheimer's?

Thursday, 24 Apr 2014 10:01 AM

By Peter Hibberd, M.D.

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Question: Is there any test I can take to tell me if I'm likely to get Alzheimer's? My father has it, and so did an uncle who died about 10 years ago.

Dr. Hibberd's answer:
 
There is no reliable test available that will accurately predict your risk of Alzheimer's disease. Besides, I'm not sure that knowing the results of some test, even if it were available, would be useful to most of us, since there is no cure for the disease.
 
You clearly have genetic risks, so you are well advised to optimize your cardiovascular health, and optimize your diet and blood cholesterol levels now while you are healthy. Stop smoking, if you do, and avoid excess alcohol and foods and other products tainted with pesticides and chemical toxins.
 
You should also limit or avoid highly processed food, and go heavy on vegetables and fruits for their rich disease-fighting properties and anti-oxidant effects. Most Alzheimer's patients appear to have scarring deposits of amyloid plaque in their brains, and optimizing nutrition, health, and blood circulation may decrease your risk of developing this disabling disorder of brain function. Be sure blood sugar and cholesterol regulation are at preventive targets for your age, and that any chronic medical disorder or hypertension is well controlled in consultation with your personal M.D.
 
You should get adequate rest and sleep, and be sure to have enough sunlight exposure for vitamin D, which we believe has a strong protective role in disease prevention. Remember that our brains need fat to function well, so a totally fat-free diet may not always be the best for brain health. You can also take steps to add to your "brain reserve" — by engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as learning a second language, reading, or playing a musical instrument — which may help mitigate the impact of dementia, should it develop later in life.
 
The lesson here is to take care of ourselves earlier in life, and avoid habits and substances that may be toxic to our brain cells, especially when we are young, when ill effects may not be instantly evident to us. While science works to develop treatments and approaches to deal with Alzheimer's disease, you should take steps now to work on optimizing circulation and health so you can have a long-lived life free of disability.

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