Test to identify Alzheimer's early may improve treatment options

Did you know more than 5 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease? And the number of people being diagnosed isn’t slowing down. By the year 2050, health experts predict an estimated 16 million people may be living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease that damages neural connections needed for activities of basic living. In its early stages, signs of Alzheimer’s typically show up as mild memory loss like forgetting your keys, losing your wallet, or having difficulty recalling words or names.

But over time, Alzheimer’s disease gets progressively worse. In the later stages of the disease, a person with Alzheimer’s may not be able to communicate or care for themselves, and could even be a danger to themselves or others. It’s a difficult disease to live with for those who are diagnosed and their caregivers.

There is no cure. Too often Alzheimer’s isn’t identified until significant brain damage has occurred, which can limit the effectiveness of treatment options. But what if Alzheimer’s disease could be identified early, long before major pathways in the brain deteriorate? More time to treat the disease with medication and cognitive therapies could help slow the progress of the disease.

And now it’s possible. In a recent study at the University of Texas, researchers are able to detect Alzheimer’s disease by examining spinal fluid. In the study, researchers identified a key molecule linked to Alzheimer’s disease that can be measured before a person begins developing symptoms.

It’s a major finding in the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Lead researcher Dr. Claudio Soto says further research will verify the validity of this test for Alzheimer’s. If follow-up studies show similar results, a simpler version of the test will be presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within the next three years for approval.

If you’re living with Alzheimer’s disease or caring for someone who does, it’s critical to follow your doctor’s orders. Medication and cognitive therapy can help. So can eating a healthy diet suitable for seniors, the population most at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Want to make meal planning as simple as possible? Just check out the selection of Senior-Friendly meals.