With a blood test on the horizon that can detect beta-amyloid, the telltale Alzheimer's protein, people who fear their memories are fading face the difficult question of whether it is a good idea to know if they are getting the disease, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
On the one hand, a positive test could help someone plan his or her future by taking steps to get affairs in order. And there is already a drug available that some claim could slow the onset of the disease if one starts taking it early enough.
In addition, despite the initial shock of an Alzheimer's diagnosis, many people are relieved to get rid of the uncertainly of what is happening to them.
On the other hand, the knowledge could lead people to become depressed and stop functioning normally, robbing them of the healthy years they do have left.
The tests can also be expensive and are often not covered by insurance.
Furthermore, although health insurers are forbidden by law to deny coverage to those who have Alzheimer's, long-term care and life insurers are allowed to deny such a person.
The Times gave the example of one person, Jay Reinstein, who learned he had early-stage Alzheimer's disease last year at the age of 57 and tried to take a balanced approach.
He resigned from his job, changed his diet, started exercising, and made a will with his wife. He has also tried to destigmatize the disease by becoming active in the Alzheimer's Association, saying he is attempting to not let his knowledge that he has the disease take over his life.
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