In the opinion of many experts, Alzheimer’s disease has become a global epidemic, with more than 35 million people worldwide now living with the devastating effects of this disease. Statistical models estimate that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease will rise by at least 50% within the next 10 years.
It has long been hypothesized that Alzheimer’s disease begins many years before symptoms noticeable. In order to determine more precisely when the process of Alzheimer’s disease begins, a new study was initiated by Dr. Laurent Younes, a professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
The importance of this research is abundantly clear: the effective treatment of many diseases is dependent on early diagnosis. With certain diseases, such as lung cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, late diagnosis makes effective treatment nearly impossible.
Dr. Younes and her colleagues began their analysis by studying the medical records of 290 people over the age of 40 that were accessible from the BIOCARD project database. This database collects data specifically designed to allow scientists to discover biomarkers and predictors of cognitive decline.
The medical records of the participants in the database included cerebrospinal fluid samples and MRI brain scans collected every two years between 1995 and 2013. Scientists from the BIOCARD project also recorded the results of five standard cognitive tests that were administered each year to the participants.
When data was initially collected, none of the participants had any signs of cognitive decline. By the end of the study, 81 participants had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. A careful analysis of these 81 participants showed that signs of cognitive impairment were visible 11 to 15 years before the symptoms were clearly noticeable. These signs were found by analyzing changes in the yearly cognitive test scores of the participants.
More importantly, the researchers discovered that raised tau protein levels, a known biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease, could be detected as early as 34 years before the onset of symptoms. A variety of other biomarkers and computer models verified that the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease were recognizable decades before the onset of symptoms.
The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
The use of these new methods is expected to allow doctors to diagnose the onset of Alzheimer’s disease far earlier than was previously possible. By doing so, treatment plans can be started early and hopefully stave off the disease for many years.
New research shows that signs of Alzheimer’s disease can be recognized up to 34 years before the onset of symptoms.
At Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, we are experts in handling all levels of cognitive impairment, from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
We have created a unique environment and care program specifically designed to address the needs of this population. Our Alzheimer’s Unit is situated in a separate, secure wing to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents. It offers a structured daily routine, mind-stimulating activities, excellent social interaction, with optimal patient independence in a calm and soothing atmosphere.
Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 609-588-5800 or by clicking here.