Recently, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis announced that they were able to measure the levels of beta-amyloid plaque in the blood of test subjects. People with Alzheimer’s have a buildup of this protein, which prevents the brain from functioning normally, so this breakthrough blood test shows promise in detecting the disease in its earliest stages.
Alzheimer’s disease is expected to affect 14 million Americans by the year 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. While deaths from heart disease have dropped 11% from 2000 to 2015, deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 123% during that same time period.
According to the Association, 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s. The incurable disease kills people more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. That’s why scientists are scrambling to find ways to thwart the disease and prevent the expected epidemic as Boomers age.
When the Washington University scientists compared the results of blood tests of the study subjects to the results of PET scans performed within 18 months of their blood draw, they found similar results. In fact, some people in the study who had positive blood tests and negative PET scans turned out to be 18 times more likely to have a positive brain scan in the future, according to Dr. Andrew E. Budson, writing for Harvard Health Publishing.
Dr. Gary Small M.D., a leading expert on dementia and author of the “Mind Health Report,” tells Newsmax:
“It is too early to say whether this blood test will be sensitive and specific as a diagnostic tool. Comparing the results of the blood test to amyloid PET scans is problematic because 20 to 30% of normal people have positive amyloid scans and may not get Alzheimer’s dementia for decades. They may become very anxious about the results even though they can remain healthy and without dementia for many years.”
In the meantime, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends these 10 tips to keep dementia at bay:
- Break a sweat. Engage in regular cardiovascular activity that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
- Hit the books. Formal education at any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online.
- Butt out. Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce the risk to levels of those who have not smoked.
- Follow your heart. Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart and your brain just might follow.
- Heads up! Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
- Fuel up right. Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
- Catch some Zzzs. Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
- Take care of your mental health. Some studies link a history of depression and increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
- Buddy up. Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community. For example, if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter.
- Stump yourself. Challenge and activate your mind. Do crossword puzzles, complete a jigsaw, play games that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.
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