The best health advice is to prevent health problems from occurring. The best method of prevention is understanding and avoiding risks, and detecting issues as early as possible. On that note, we present a health breakthrough in area of dementia, namely Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found that, using a simple MRI test, we could help predict which adults are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Let’s begin with “mild cognitive impairment,” as it is central to this latest health news. This is the intermediate stage between the natural decline in mental abilities that happens when we age and the more pronounced decline that occurs with Alzheimer’s. The study suggests that MRI scans could help predict which people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are most at risk of progressing to Alzheimer’s.
People with MCI develop Alzheimer’s at a rate of 15% to 20% a year. This is far higher than the rate of the general population, which sits at about one to two percent. Some people with MCI remain stable, some have gradual decline, and some have rapid deterioration. Predicting who does what would be an immeasurable benefit for patients.
The team analyzed MRI exams from a study on 203 healthy individuals, 317 with MCI and 164 with late-onset Alzheimer’s, between 2005 and 2010. They conducted a MRI exam at the beginning, then another one year later. The patients’ average age was 75. The MRI measured thickness of the cerebral cortex; the outer layer of the parts of the brain in charge of memory, attention, thought and language. The question was how quickly this area started to thin out. One hallmark of Alzheimer’s is a loss of brain cells in areas of the cortex.
They found that patients with MCI had a one-year risk of conversion to Alzheimer’s ranging from three percent to 40%. The MRI at the beginning helped identify those patients at very low risk of Alzheimer’s and those whose risk was doubled. Combining both MRI exams could predict rates of disease progression between three percent and 69%.
Sadly, no current treatments truly slow or prevent Alzheimer’s. But this information can help considerably with quality of life, family planning, and many other factors for patients. Speak to your doctor for more information.