In medicine, timing is everything. Your treatment options for most diseases become limited past a certain point. And the difference between certain death and survival can often be counted in the minutes, months, or years leading up to a diagnosis.
That’s why, as doctors, we’re always looking for new disease biomarkers that allow us to intervene at the soonest possible moment, in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.
It’s also why, while I’m generally not a big fan of genetic testing, I do make exceptions for specific targets relevant enough to influence clinical decisions. (Think BRCA or HER-2 in breast cancer.) Needless to say, these kinds of discoveries can be real game-changers.
So you can imagine my reaction to the latest developments in Alzheimer’s research to come across my desk…
This new study appears to have uncovered brain-based Alzheimer’s disease (AD) biomarkers tied to a distinct and sequential pattern of changes, starting a full 20 years before dementia sets in. So bear with me because I’m about to get a tad technical for a second here, but the gravity of this breakthrough is just too important not to share…
Researchers recruited subjects with a family history of AD. This included a group of subjects with AD-specific gene mutations — including amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin 1 (PSEN1), and PSEN2. Of these, 88 were symptomatic, while 141 were identified as asymptomatic carriers. The study also featured 70 relatives unaffected by the disease.
Researchers used interviews to assess familial disease patterns — specifically, the age at which subjects’ parents first showed signs of dementia. They used this information to predict when symptoms would most likely strike the study’s participants.
The follow-up period lasted two to three years on average. And during this time, they discovered that carriers of the mutation experienced significantly higher rates of beta amyloid buildup (a sticky plaque that’s a major biomarker of AD) in the brain, as many as two decades preceding the expected age of onset Alzheimer’s symptoms.
But that was only the first development that set them apart.
Researchers also saw differences in brain glucose metabolism (which plays a critical role in your physiological brain function) emerge in this group, at an average of roughly 14 years before the expected age of AD symptom onset.
And lastly, at roughly five years before expected symptom onset, imaging detected structural differences — and more specifically, greater brain atrophy — in mutation carriers versus those not affected by the disease.
So what we have here is a three-step domino effect…
Amyloid build-up gives way to decreases in your brain’s glucose metabolism, which ultimately leads to brain shrinkage. All of which occurs over the course of roughly 20 years.
To put this discovery in perspective, consider this: An MRI is typically the first test that your doctor will order to assess your situation. When, according to these findings, there are markers that could provide valuable information about your risk level more than a decade sooner. And nearly two full decades before the first symptoms of dementia rear their ugly head.
That’s a pretty big deal. Because while amyloid build-up only represents one aspect of Alzheimer’s disease progression — and perhaps not even the most critical one, on a practical level — it clearly does function as a canary in the coalmine.
Which means that you can start taking necessary, vital steps to protect your brain before the worst damage ever takes hold.
For now, Alzheimer’s is widely regarded as incurable. But it’s in no way unstoppable. In that respect, the forewarning that these genetic tests might provide could be life-changing. And yes, there is a lot you can do — from altering your diet to taking the right nutritional supplements.
I discuss all of these strategies in detail in my new Drug-Free Protocol for Reversing Alzheimer’s and Dementia. And regardless of your genetic profile, if you haven’t already, I urge you to learn more or enroll today — simply click here.