Stephan Baldwin is the Director of Business Development for AssistedLivingCenter.com, a resource for elderly care communities.
Alzheimer's is a devastating disease that affects the lives of millions of people every year. It is estimated that more than 5 million people in the United States are living with the disease.
This problem will continue to grow as the population ages. Because people are living longer than ever, it has become increasingly important to find ways to treat and ultimately prevent this disease that primarily affects persons over the age of sixty.
A Blood Test For Early Detection
A team of researchers at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, NJ, are working on a blood test to detect the presence of Alzheimer's early on, long before the onset of symptoms. This early detection would allow people to change their lifestyle and adopt specific habits to slow down the development of the disease. The longer that symptoms can be put off, the better. Not only could this development add years to a person's life, it would also dramatically improve their quality of life. According to lead researcher Robert Nagele:
“There are significant benefits to early disease detection because we now know that many of the same conditions that lead to vascular disease are also significant risk factors for Alzheimer's…”
Researchers working on the test have reported that they are getting closer to identifying Alzheimer's at its earliest stage. Alzheimer's begins and progresses, making changes in the brain, years before it is usually diagnosed. Once diagnosed, a person may have as little at five to seven years to live. Each person is different as to how the disease affects them and how quickly it progresses, but Alzheimer's is fatal.
The test would focus on auto-antibodies in the blood that would identify the presence of Alzheimer's. The test could also be used to identify the presence of other conditions including Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and breast cancer.
The Future: Prevention
While the ultimate goal of Alzheimer's research is to find a cure and prevent its occurrence, detecting the disease is an important first step.
While we may be some time away from finding that cure, much progress has been made in the realm of effective treatments. It is becoming increasingly clear that there are ways to help slow down the progression of the disease significantly through health and lifestyle changes.
How Can Alzheimer's Symptoms Be Slowed?
Some people are under the assumption that a disease with no cure can't be treated, but that is not true. And while there are medications that can be prescribed to patients with Alzheimer's, a healthy lifestyle can be just as effective, and early detection may be able to significantly delay even the onset.
In addition, if you are already diagnosed, lifestyle changes can increase your overall quality of life. Here are some things you can do to lead a brain-healthy life:
- Diet is a huge factor. A diet that is low in processed foods, low in sugar and high in healthy fats and vegetables can make all the difference.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get exercise. Regular aerobic exercise combined with strength training is great. Yoga is also a wonderful way to keep the body and mind healthy.
- Your brain needs exercise too. Play games, read books, learn new things. Keep active socially.
- Get plenty of rest, avoid stress and do things that make you happy!
Overall, this is exciting news for the medical community and has the potential to change millions of lives. Alzheimer's steals people's memories and independence, and robs families of quality time with their loved one. Any progress made in stopping this devastating disease is a major victory.
Want to stay on top of news related to caring for your elderly loved one? Check out our senior caregiving section.