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New test may be early Alzheimer’s indicator.

-Dr. Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC

A recent study on Alzheimer’s has found a new and earlier indicator of Alzheimer’s. Current Alzheimer’s testing focuses on the subject’s ability to retain his or her memory. Now scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that another type of mental abilities begin to deteriorate three years prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s.

These mental abilities are known as visuospatial skills. These skills are tested through such actions as connecting dots or following a diagram in order to build a structure with blocks.  The scientist collected and analyzed data over three decades of elderly citizens.  The scientist tested three types of mental skills and discovered that visuospatial was the first of the three skills to deteriorate and this deterioration was generally noticeable about three years before the patient was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“We may need to rethink what we look for as the earliest signs of mental change associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” says senior author James Galvin, M.D., a Washington University neurologist who is also on staff at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “If we can better recognize the first signs of disease, we can start treating patients earlier and hopefully with new treatments we can slow or perhaps even stop their progress into dementia.”

This information could lead to a new standard in detecting Alzheimer’s earlier. The earlier one is diagnosed, the more time he or she has to actively fight it. However, like any new discovery, more research is needed before a definitive proclamation can be issued. It is encouraging for Alzheimer’s victims that new progress is actively being made to treat and prevent such an awful disease.

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