A new study shows that Alzheimer’s disease is a relatively predictable outcome 18 years in advance in patients with no history of the disease if they had taken memory and cognitive skill tests on a regular basis.
The new study, which was published last week in the medical journal Neurology, involved more than 2,100 seniors with the average age 73. Participants were requested to take two tests assessing their memory and cognitive skills every three years. The study was conducted over the course of 18 years.
Participants were either African American or European American and had no symptoms of Alzheimer’s when they were enrolled in the study. In the meantime, 23 percent of African Americans and 17 percent of European Americans developed the neuro degenerative disease.
Study authors found a link between poor scores on thinking and memory tests in the first year of the study and an increased chance to develop Alzheimer’s up to 18 years later. Participants that scored poorly were 10 times more likely to be affected by the disease.
Dr. Kumar B. Rajan, senior author of the study and researcher at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, explained that Alzheimer’s is heralded by changes in memory and thinking skills years or even decades before the disease’s symptoms begin to settle.
Dr. Rajan also said that the symptoms are so subtle doctors cannot detect them in their patients that are most likely to develop Alzheimer’s. But during the study, the participants who developed dementia due to the disease clearly displayed those changes in memory and cognitive skill tests.
Moreover, scientists disclosed that 13 to 18 years before the disease’s debut was the period when the changes were most obvious. Every single unit below the average score of a test during that period was linked to an 85 percent increased chance of having the disease later in life.
Dr Rajan noted that the changes were very subtle, but the link between poor scores 13 to 18 years before the disease’s emergence and a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s was consistent and statistically significant. Poor scores in memory and thinking tests virtually foretold the amplitude of the future risk.
According to the study, Alzheimer’s begins to corrode brain functions years to decades before a full-blown diagnosis. It affects thinking abilities long before scientists expected. And the mental decline can be diagnosed through carefully planned tests. That’s why researchers recommend clinicians should focus on prevention earlier than they usually did, especially in those that have the disease running in their family.
Image Source: Franklyn County Home Health Agency Inc.
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