Scientists are getting closer and closer to a critical milestone in diagnosing Alzheimer’s patients. They are extremely close to succeeding at creating a blood test to screen people for the disease.
Currently, Alzheimer’s is diagnosed only after people start having memory problems or unexpected change in behavior. They then undergo an in-depth medical interview, a memory assessment test and occasionally an MRI to look for brain shrinkage. The problem is that these processes are overly expensive and impractical for routine use.
That’s why two recent studies are being hailed around the medical world as a large step forward in Alzheimer’s research. Australian researchers reported a few weeks ago that their blood tests showed more accuracy than ever seen before when tested with over 1000 patients. “The test correctly identified 83 percent of people with high amyloid levels and correctly ruled out 85 percent of people without this condition”.
The other study used blood tests to screen for autoantibodies (special markers in blood) and showed even better experimental results. “The blood test correctly detected Alzheimer's disease in people already diagnosed with the devastating brain disorder with 96 percent accuracy, according to the researchers. The test could also distinguish who didn't have the disease from a control group of non-affected adults with 92.5 percent accuracy”.
This research is a huge step forward but the scientists cautioned spectators saying that there is still a long way to go. Let’s hope that future studies like these continue to show as exciting and ground-breaking results.
A few weeks ago, we blogged about how exercise not only is crucial to maintain a healthy and fit body but also can play an important role in reducing anxiety. Today new studies reveal that exercise may also be vital to keeping your mind strong and preventing memory loss and brain disease.
The most encouraging study, by Canadian researchers, concludes that even modest activity had a significant effect on brain function as the years progressed. The study measured the energy expenditure and cognitive functioning of a large group of seniors over five years and discovered that 90% of the people who exercised could think and remember perfectly for a longer time.
Laura Middleton, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and lead author of the study, said that their “results indicate that vigorous exercise isn’t necessary” to protect your mind. All you need are simple activities like walking the dog or gardening on a regular basis to keep your mind fit and healthy.
A similar study of women in their 70s with vascular disease came to the same conclusion as there was a decreasing rate of cognitive decline among the more active group. Dr. Eric Larson, the vice president of research at Group Health Research Institute said “if we can push out the onset of dementia by 5, 10 or more years, that changes the dynamics of aging” and he was hopeful that exercise can be the solution. Now all that’s needed is to find a way to get everybody active and moving.
 Gretchen Reynolds, “How Exercise Can Keep the Brain Fit”, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/how-exercise-can-keep-the-brain-fit/?ref=health#