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New Alzheimer’s Test Available

How It Works

The test measures the levels of fats (called lipids) in the blood. This helps a physician estimate the chances of his patient developing mild impairment–such as memory loss and problems with thinking–to the onset of actual dementia like Alzheimer’s.

If a patient has low levels of 10 different types of lipids it is an accurate predictor of dementia. Researchers aren’t sure why these lipid levels are reduced in certain people and why this indicates they will develop problems, but the connection between the two is evident.

The new test is easier to administer and less expensive than previous ones used for predicting Alzheimer’s. Earlier testing relied on magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, and positron emission tomography, or PET scans.

The Study

The study followed 525 people aged 70 or older for five years. Each had a full blood exam and a complete range of neurocognitive testing. All were physically healthy at the start of the study.

During the five-year period, 74 developed dementia. Their blood work was compared to that of participants whose brains stayed sharp. In every case, the people who had dementia started out with lower levels of 10 lipids compared to those not affected.

Using this information, the researchers gathered 40 more participants and put them into a new study. They checked to see if monitoring the lipid levels would accurately predict those who would be afflicted with cognitive impairment. The results showed that the test is highly accurate.

What This Means for the Future

For the immediate future, this test helps take the guesswork out of what is causing mental problems in senior patients. Long-term, researchers feel it will speed finding a cure for the disease.

It also enables physicians to start disease-modifying therapies as early as possible. It means that those looking for Alzheimers care can potentially find some relief with treatment.

Many of these therapies are showing promise, but they need to be applied in the beginning stages to have much effect. Doctors hope some of these treatments can stop the progression of dementia.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Mild cognitive impairment has long been associated with a longer life, but the situation can become debilitating. It is then labeled dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s–a set of symptoms that can cause problems remembering and difficulties with emotions and inhibitions. Over four million Americans suffer from the condition, which usually manifests itself after age 60.

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