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A new study is suggesting that there might be a way to detect the beginnings of Alzheimer’s, as early as 18 years ahead of an actual diagnosis. And while there’s still no cure, it buys doctors and researchers more time to look for answers, slow down or possibly reverse the condition.

Researchers out of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago believe memory and thinking tests could be the answer. According to Time, the researchers tracked more than 2,000 people (at the average age of 73, who were not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when the study began) for nearly two decades. Every three years their mental skills were tested, and they discovered that those who scored low on the tests had a greater chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Those studied didn’t show any obvious symptoms of what could come, except for the progressively worse test results.

“The changes in thinking and memory that precede obvious symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin decades before,” says Kumar Rajan, author of the study in Neurology.

He acknowledges that the low test stores isn’t the be-all and end-all of a person at risk, but the tests should be part of routine health maintenance as we get older. For those whose tests become increasingly worse, there could be preventative efforts made — like doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language, or increased social interaction, adds Rajan.

The current data shows that, at the very least, it could delay an eventual Alzheimer’s diagnosis, meaning a person can find ways to enjoy life for that much longer.

This breakthrough provides hope for affected people and their families in the form of more time. In the absence of any certified cure, that’s all anyone can ask for.