New Groundbreaking Blood Tests To Predict The Risk Of Alzheimer’s

March 12, 2024

A recent article on the Independent explores the potential for a groundbreaking blood test that
could predict the risk of developing dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s disease, up to 20 years
before symptoms manifest. The report features insights from Dr. Emer MacSweeney, CEO and Medical Director Re:Cognition Health.

The Alzheimer’s Association in the US proposes a novel approach involving blood tests to assess levels of abnormal proteins, amyloid and tau, which are linked to cognitive decline. Those with elevated levels could be warned of their risk, classified as “stage one Alzheimer’s”

Below, Dr MacSweeney describes the various stages of Alzheimer’s:

Stage One – Early Stage (Mild Alzheimer’s Disease)
Memory Loss: This is often the most noticeable symptom in the early stage. Individuals may have difficulty with their short-term memory, experiencing issues recalling recently learned information. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): Cognitive functions decline, but individuals can still perform daily activities. Some challenges may be noticed such as language, problem-solving and decision-making. Mood and Personality Changes: Individuals may experience mood swings, increased anxiety or mild personality changes.

Middle Stage (Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease)
Increased Memory Loss: Memory problems become more pronounced, including difficulty recognising friends and family members. Confusion and Disorientation: Individuals may become disoriented about time and locations. They may get lost in familiar places. Communication: Difficulty finding the right words, repeating statements, or struggling with conversations. Behaviour- Agitation, aggression, wandering and other behavioural changes may occur. Loss of Independence: Individuals may require assistance with daily activities such as dressing or meal preparation.

Late Stage (Severe Alzheimer’s Disease):
Severe Memory Loss: Individuals may no longer recognise close family members or even themselves. Profound Cognitive Decline: Communication becomes extremely challenging and individuals may lose the ability to speak coherently. Loss of Physical Function: Individuals may lose the ability to walk or perform other basic motor functions such as sitting, balancing, reaching or tracking movements with their eyes. Increased Dependency: Full-time care is typically required for those with late-stage Alzheimer’s as individuals require support and lose the ability to function independently. Vulnerability to Infections: Due to a weakened immune system, individuals in the late stage are more susceptible to infections. Some individuals may experience a more rapid decline, while others may have a slower progression of the disease. Early diagnosis and personalised care plans are crucial for managing the symptoms and providing the best possible quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr MacSweeney explains the complexity of Alzheimer’s progression, emphasizing the variability in symptoms and stages, which can overlap. The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that one in three people in the UK lives with undiagnosed dementia. Diagnosis rates hit a low during the pandemic, prompting the need for improved diagnostics and access to specialist tests.

The blood tests could revolutionise early detection, allowing for interventions before clinical symptoms appear. In addition to providing the individual an opportunity to join an international clinical trial for new medications, early diagnosis can enable lifestyle adjustments which are more effective when implemented early – this includes diet, exercise and cognitive training which can all be hugely effective. Early diagnosis also enables individuals and their families to plan for the future and make informed decisions about care options. Dr MacSweeney concludes, “I would encourage anybody with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis to seriously consider joining a clinical trial. Currently, it is the only way in the UK to access these medications to slow the progression of the disease and to have a chance to proactively change your future.” The Alzheimer’s Society collaborates with Alzheimer’s Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research to explore the accuracy of blood testing for Alzheimer’s. Current diagnostic tests, often inconclusive, require expensive PET-CT brain scans used primarily in clinical trials.

Read the full article here

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