I have patients coming to me on a daily basis asking for the best ways to ward off one of the most troubling — yet most common — symptoms of aging: memory loss. And as you’ve read here in the Reality Health Check, there are many ways to do that.
But today I want to tell you about a new breakthrough for the scariest form of memory loss: Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
There are two main problems with this illness. The first is that, currently, there is no single, simple test to diagnose it. The second is that, once you do go through the arduous process of getting a diagnosis, mainstream medicine has no effective treatment options.
But the study I just read may offer real hope of conquering AD.
It was published in June 2015 edition of the journal Neurology – and it revealed a potential method that may be able to detect AD very, very early. We’re talking up to a decade before the first symptoms ever appear.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers examined blood profiles of 100 patients that had been taken many years previously. They found that the people who developed AD had abnormal levels of four proteins in their blood. Specifically, samples from AD patients had higher levels ofcathepsin D, lysosome-associated membrane protein 1 (LAMP-1), and ubiquitinylated protein. And lower levels of one called heat-shock protein 70.
This connection held up in nearly 100% of the cases. And some of the blood samples were taken up to 20 years before patients developed any symptoms of AD.
This discovery presents a potential screening tool that could tell you decades ahead of time whether you’re at risk for AD. And that gives you a major head start to fight back.
So we may be standing on the threshold of finally being able to prevent or at the very least delay this tragic disease that devastates so many lives.
How exciting is that?
The only thing better would be an all-out cure.
Unfortunately, this discovery is so new, no specific test has been developed for these four proteins yet. Hopefully the stunning accuracy the researchers noted will speed things up on that front.
But in the meantime, it’s important to know the other warning signs of AD – and to take action the minute you notice any of them.
Here are 10 common signs and symptoms:
- Forgetting things and not being able to remember them at a later time. This means not being able to remember important dates, asking the same things over and over again, and relying on others to help remember things.
- Trouble following instructions, executing a plan or solving problems. For example, having a difficult time following a recipe.
- Getting lost on the way to a familiar location, such as a nearby grocery store.
- Consistently getting confused about time — i.e. what day it is, or how long it has been since an event occurred.
- Specific changes in vision, such as judging distance and/or determining color and contrast.
- Struggling with word retrieval (such as calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”), difficulty following a conversation, or repeating things over and over.
- Misplacing items and putting objects in unusual places and then not remembering where they are. This includes accusing people of stealing on a more frequent basis.
- Consistently using poor judgment that results in making bad decisions …such as giving money away to predatory telemarketers, or forgetting to shower and maintain proper grooming.
- Withdrawal from social activities and hobbies.
- Sudden, intense mood swings.
Some of these are more subtle than others. But if you notice any of these signs, don’t ignore them. When it comes to AD, early detection and intervention is key.