Catch Alzheimer's Early Enough to Make a Difference?

Could we be diagnosed with Alzehimer's in time to stave it off?  Well, not yet, but scientists say brain imaging using radioactive dye can detect early evidence of Alzheimer's disease that may predict future cognitive decline among adults with mild or no cognitive impairment.

As reports, a Duke University study confirms earlier work that identified "silent beta-amyloid plaque build-up in the brain (that) could help guide care and treatment decisions for patients at risk for Alzheimer's."

“Our research found that healthy adults and those with mild memory loss who have a positive scan for these plaques have a much faster rate of decline on memory, language and reasoning over three years,” the Web site quotes lead author P. Murali Doraiswamy, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the neurocognitive disorders program at Duke.

The disease currently affects an astounding 5 million people in the U.S. today and was recently moved to the head of the pack, coming in third as the leading cause of death in this country.  It was previously listed as sixth but researchers are now noting that many more cases exist than are or have been reported.

The results of a three-year study of 152 adults 50 and older -- some already with Alzheimer's and others showing mild cognitive impairment, along with healthy participants -- showed that "those with mild or no cognitive impairment who had evidence of plaques at the trial's start worsened to a greater degree on cognitive tests than those with negative scans," according to  The participants took tests and underwent a PET scan.

Thirty-five percent of plaque-positive participants who started with mild cognitive impairment progressed to Alzheimer's, compared to 10 percent without plaque. Ninety percent of participants with mild cognitive impairment but no plaque did not progress to Alzheimer's, the study found.

So what can we do to fend off this disease?  Not much yet.  But hope's on the horizon for earlier diagnosis and treatment, that, while it won't cure the disease today, may just, in the future.


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