The 30th International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International has just wrapped up and there was a very interesting reveal when it comes to Australians paving the way to conquering this disease.
According to Science Western Australia, ECU research fellow Dr Veer Gupta presented her ongoing investigation into protein biomarkers for progressive memory loss and proved that a simple diagnosis for Alzheimer’s could be just around the corner.
Dr Gupta said she hopes to develop blood biomarker panels, which can replace current methods which include analysing difficult-to-access CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) and does away with the need for expensive neuroimaging to detect AD.
“We are working towards a more refined combination of [previously discovered] protein biomarkers that are validated in a longitudinal manner,” she said.
For the first time, longitudinal changes in blood biomarker profiles, CSF and neuroimaging scans could be compared over time to test how well blood biomarker profiles reflected biochemical alterations in the brain due to disease progression in her study.
AIBL participants were comprehensively tested for memory impairments at recruitment and classified as healthy (presymptomatic), or people with subjective memory complaints, mild cognitive impairments or AD.
The team found protein combinations that can differentiate between study participants who remained healthy over the three-year study period and those that transitioned into mild or severe cognitive impairment states.
“The biomarkers tested represent different biological pathways that can contribute to the disease,” she says.
The development of a blood test for Alzheimer’s diagnosis would be incredible. Currently, symptoms of Alzheimer’s that are obvious to the average person don’t begin to show until it is too late to slow or modify meaning that no management plan can be implemented.
Identifying biomarkers in blood before symptoms being to show allow patients to plan appropriately and begin preventative action to slow or stave off the symptoms.
Dementia currently affects around 332,000 Australians and 70 per cent of those are suffering from Alzheimer’s. The good news is that researchers believe that one in three cases of the disease are actually preventable.
Last year, a research team from Cambridge University published their study in The Lancet Neurology and identified the seven main risk factors for the disease.
These included; diabetes, mid-life hypertension, mid-life obesity, physical inactivity, depression, smoking and low educational attainment.
The research identified that one third of Alzheimer cases were preventable should better lifestyle decisions be made. The team reviewed the risk factors and found that by reducing each risk factor by 10%, nearly nine million cases of the disease could be prevented by 2050.
It has been common knowledge for years that things like exercise, a healthy diet, no alcohol or smoking are good for our general health and wellbeing but this research indicates that the impacts of making healthy decisions are much more significant as we age than we previously thought.
So to combat Alzheimer’s, there’s a simple formula to at least prevent it to the best of your ability.
The Disconnected Mind, an Age UK funded research project into how thinking skills alter with age, has suggested that changing lifestyle can result in health benefits. The five things you need to do to reduce your dementia risk include:
1. Get regular exercise – gentle to moderate exercise daily is recommended, scientists claim up to 150 minutes per week is ideal.
2. Do not smoke. Smokers are healthiest if they quite at 40 – studies suggest this can maintain an additional 10 years of life.
3. Maintain a healthy bodyweight – don’t settle being “overweight”, we should be in our healthy range.
4. Eat a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is high in fish, nuts, whole grains and ‘healthy’ fats such as those in olive oil, while low in red meat and dairy products. Studies suggest three to five or more portions of fruit and vegetables with fat making up less than 30 per cent of calories.
5. A low or moderate alcohol consumption. This is classified as three or fewer units per day for men, two or fewer for women, with abstinence not treated as a healthy behaviour. A small 125ml glass of wine contains 1.3 units, while a pint of beer contains at least two units.
There’s never a time too late to begin active prevention for the onset of dementia so let’s all make a change today!
Tell us, what lifestyle change do you promise to make today?