Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive brain disease that affects memory, cognitive skills, behaviour and emotion. Though the onset of the disease is not clear, it is believed to develop due to abnormal chances in brain tissue, which leads to brain shrinkage. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia currently effecting 44 million people worldwide, and this figure is set to treble by 2050.
Fortunately many researchers are busy learning more about dementia to develop mechanisms for prevention. ‘Nature in Medicine’ published the latest discovery, made by scientists at Georgetown University in Washington DC, is the difference in 10 lipid levels in blood samples. Corresponding author Howard J Federoff, MD, PhD and professor of Neurology and Executive VP for Health Science at Georgetown University Medical Centre, is optimistic about the potential benefits of their findings. “Our novel blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk of progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients, their families and physicians plan for and manage the disorder”.
The 5 year study involved blood samples being taken from 525 healthy participants, who were aged 70 and above. During the study 53 participants developed mild Alzheimer’s and 21 developed amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). The blood samples of the 53 participants who had developed Alzheimer’s were compared to 53 healthy samples. When analysing the samples a difference was found in 10 lipids (fats in blood). The brain needs certain lipids to function, so a change in certain lipids may explain brain chances that occur in Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers state that the test has 90% accuracy and feel the 10 lipid markers could predict who was likely to enter cognitive decline in the following years. However, Dr Doug Brown, from the Alzheimer’s Society, is concerned over ethical issues. “If this does develop in the future people must be given a choice about whether they would want to know, and fully understand the implications”.
For now, further research needs to be conducted before clinical trials can follow.
To reduce the $600 billion cost of Alzheimer’s and potentially save some of the 44 million lives directly affected by the disease, prevention is highly important. So, what can you do?
- – Have a healthy balanced diet (a biscuit in each hand doesn’t count)
- – Exercise for the recommended 150 minutes (2 hours 30) a week (break it down into 30 minute sessions and you can still have 2 days off)
- – Quit smoking (that means 0 cigarettes not the occasional 1)
- – Avoid heavy drinking (limit= women=2-3 units, men=3-4 units)
- – Regularly check your blood pressure (normal=systolic (upper) ≤120 and diastolic (lower) ≤80)
- – Manage your diabetes (if you have it)
- – Stay mentally active (read, learn new skills, do puzzles etc)