Aging is a transitional period in life. The older adulthood years are filled with spending time with your loved ones and pursuing your passions. Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that prevents individuals from experiencing the joys that come with aging. Currently, there is no cure or medications to help slow down the progression of the disease. The medications that are presently available on the market are to relieve the symptoms of the disorder.
However, 2019 has been the year of revolutionary breakthroughs in terms of Alzheimer’s research. Researchers at the National Institute on Aging and at the University of Otago have developed two new methods that detect symptoms of Alzheimer’s before the onset of the disease, with almost 100 percent certainty (early detection).
Why Is Early Detection Important?
There are numerous benefits of early detection. Alzheimer’s is a disorder that doesn’t just affect the individual but also their loved ones.Early detection allows individuals and their loved ones to plan for the future in terms of arranging for medication, living situations, and joining support groups. It also allows families to spend as much time together as possible when their loved one can still retain memories. It also lessens the individual’s and their families’ worries about the reason they are experiencing symptoms, including memory loss, language dysfunction, and a loss of orientation.
Along with the emotional benefits that early detection provides, it is also very crucial in terms of legal and financial planning. While the individual is still healthy, they can plan with their families about their future care plans, where their finances will go, and sort out their legal matters. This provides a peace of mind and prevents future disagreements between loved ones as the individual progresses through the various stages of Alzheimer’s.
Research at The National Institute on Aging:
Insulin plays an important role in the brain as it tracks and controls energy reserves (glucose) in the central nervous system (CNS- made up of the brain and spinal cord). It affects numerous areas of the brain including the hippocampus which regulates memory and cognition (two functions that are highly impacted by Alzheimer’s). Research indicates that insulin is critical for neuronal (brain cell) growth, functioning, and repair. The insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1) is a protein that regulates the signaling of insulin between the neurons of the brain. Researchers at the National Institute on Aging conducted a study with three sets of patients who had Alzheimer’s, diabetes (no cognitive impairments) , and frontotemporal dementia. The conclusion drawn from the study is that patients with Alzheimer’s had high inactive forms of IRS-1 compared to patients with diabetes and frontotemporal dementia. The results of this study can help scientists detect Alzheimer’s up to 10 years before symptoms develop with 90% accuracy.
Research at The University of Otago:
Researchers at the University of Otago have discovered blood microRNAs that can detect whether a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease in the future with 86% accuracy. MicroRNAs are non-coding RNAs (ribonucleic acids) which play a tremendous factor in gene expression, as they control multiple different proteins. They are important in cellular processes including cell differentiation (unspecialized cells turning into specialized cells), insulin secretion, and neurogenesis (new neurons forming in the brain). Individuals who will eventually develop Alzheimer’s have a variation in a certain set of microRNAs. Scientists are able to identify these microRNAs through the use of a blood test- an inexpensive method of early detection.
Warning Signs to Look Out For:
Taking care of your health should be a priority no matter what age you are. You should always maintain and monitor your health, especially as you age. Alzheimer’s is a disorder that doesn’t develop overnight. It is a gradual progression and symptoms are often visible years before the onset of the disease. Here is a list of symptoms that you should look out for. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or in a loved one, please visit a medical professional .
Severe Memory Loss: This can include forgetting how to open the door or not understanding how to use your car keys. These are signs that you or your loved one is not experiencing normal memory loss related to aging. This is a potential sign of Alzhiemer’s.
Sudden Personality Changes: If you notice your loved one lose interest in a hobby or activity they have been invested in for their entire life, it’s a warning sign to go and visit your doctor. For example, a person who loves hiking may suddenly decide that they never want to hike again, or a naturally upbeat and optimistic person develops a highly pessimistic attitude.
Speech Problems: Another sign to look out for is speech impairments. For example, the individual may lose interest in joining a conversation, not maintain eye contact while talking and struggle to find the appropriate words to use.