Dementia present long before memory loss

The number of people with dementia could be twice as high as estimated, according to a new study. The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, adds to the growing research that Alzheimer’s begins years before symptoms appear.

Researchers followed 445 senior participants for up to 10 years after their assessment to detect any changes. They found cognitively normal people with elevated levels of amyloid proteins experienced more rapid declines in thinking than those with normal levels.

The study and its use of the amyloid biomarker significantly expand knowledge about how Alzheimer’s begins, said James Brewer, MD, PhD, University of California San Diego neuroscientist and interim director of the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, in a press release.

“It’s a blessing because if we can stop this process at the earliest phases, then that’s going to be extremely exciting because we can do it before the nerve degeneration builds up and the other bad protein builds up,” he said to the San Diego Union Tribune. “It’s a curse because right now we actually have the capability of essentially telling a person as much as 18 years before they start to have cognitive decline that probably bad news is coming in the future.”

The findings suggest that people can live with Alzheimer’s disease for years without cognitive impairment, meaning the disease’s definition should be changed. It also suggests beginning treatment as soon as signs of the disease can be detected and well ahead of cognitive impairment—far earlier than what is done now.

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Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia , Articles