Growing old isn’t fun. Or easy. Most people fear the day when their own body will begin to turn against them, preventing them from walking as quickly as they’d like, eating their favorite food, and causing them to make regular appointments at the doctor’s.
But the physical changes that the body goes through are nothing compared to the ones that the brain goes through in the event of developing a mental disease such as Alzheimer’s. One can wash the dishes even if they take ten (10) minutes to get to the kitchen, but they can not have a conversation about memories that they’ve lost.
Fortunately, the future might be about to get a little brighter for those at risk of developing the disease. A new study has found that Alzheimer’s could be detected by as many as 18 years in advance, before the illness settles in, as that is when the early symptoms typically start to show.
Kumar B. Rajan, lead author and PhD from Rush University’s Medical Center (Chicago) gave a statement informing that “The changes in thinking and memory that precede obvious symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin decades before”.
He went on to add that the medical community can’t yet detect these changes in individuals who are at risk, however they were able to notice them among a group of people who developed dementia eventually due to Alzheimer’s.
For their study, published in the journal Neurology, the researchers looked at 2.125 patients with the average age of 73. The project lasted for 18 years, and once every three (3) years the participants had to take a test that assessed how well their memory functions, as well as what their thinking skills are.
None of those studied had been diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease when the study started, and the program included European-Americans as well as African-Americans.
The overall results showed that African-American subjects were more at risk of developing the disease, as 23 percent (23%) of them met this fate Alzheimer’s over the course of the study, while only 17 percent (17%) of the European-American subjects ended up developing Alzheimer’s over the course of the study.
Signs started showing early on as those who had the lowest scores on the thinking and memory tests conducted in the first year of the study had ten (10) times more of a chance of developing the disease.
The most insightful phase in the program consisted of the thinking and memory tests that participants took 13 to 18 years before the study ended. During this time, each unit of lower performance carried with it 85 percent (85%) more of a chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The lead author mentioned that even though the risk assessed in the 13 to 18 years phase is “lower than the same one unit lower performance when measured in the year before dementia assessment”, it’s still the later faze that provided him and his team with valuable information on just how subtle declines can be when it comes to cognitive functions, as well as how they affect future risk.
His working theory is that by further studying how these changes happen in middle-aged subjects, researchers could very well uncover methods of preventing Alzheimer’s disease from settling in.
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