While there is no cure yet for Alzheimer's, there are several warning signs and tests that offer insight into a patient's propensity to develop the disease. Since Alzheimer's develops about 20 years prior to experiencing memory loss and behavioral problems, early detection may mean a patient can seek treatment before it causes irreversible brain damage. Here are a few early warning tests or signs to look for:
1. Amyloid plaque is one of the first signs that develops in Alzheimer’s, and occurs in both the brain and the retina. A new eye test was developed by doctors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to detect the plaque. The test is non-invasive and affordable, and can be completed in 20 minutes.
2. The ability to navigate is another early sign of Alzheimer's. Although there is no one standard test that can be performed, patients can be tested in real-world navigational situations (e.g., hallways and corridors, roads and streets) to gauge this skill.
3. Older adults who experience hearing loss could experience denigrated thinking abilities, including processing new information, thinking flexibly, and brain, eye, and hand coordination.
4. Changes in everyday speech, such as use of short sentences, more pronouns, and pauses like "um" and "ah”.
5. Sense of smell, or lessened ability to identify odors, may be associated with lower thinking and memory skills, older age, and brain shrinkage.
6. Older adults have a high risk for memory and thinking problems after being hospitalized in emergency or urgent admissions, but not for elective or scheduled surgeries.
For more information on these early warning signs and the benefits of early detection, click here. If you would like to learn more about Alzheimer's and dementia research studies in your area that are recruiting volunteers, click here.