It’s being hailed as a medical breakthrough: scientists have discovered a way to use a PET brain scan to detect the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease as early as twenty years before any symptoms arise.
Currently, the only way to accurately diagnosis Alzheimer’s is posthumously, via autopsy. But an innovative new brain scan will make it possible to detect the warning signs, clusters of proteins called amyloid plaque, and begin the process of treating the disease immediately.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a radioactive dye called Amyvid is used as a magnet for amyloid plaque; once injected into the arm it attaches itself to the destructive protein. High levels of Amyvid, when picked up on a PET scan, indicate a strong likeliness that somebody will develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
While having a high level of Amyvid does not guarantee the presence of Alzheimer’s- approximately 30% of subjects with high Amyvid will never develop any form of dementia- low Amyvid levels may be used to negate that possibility.
Scientists have also linked a correlation between vitamin b12 deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease. A Finnish study which followed 271 senior citizens found that elderly test subjects with sufficiently high levels of vitamin b12 and proportionately low traces of homocysteine (an amino acid linked to dementia, stroke and heart disease) were the least likely of all to suffer Alzheimer’s disease.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Memory loss, misplacing everyday objects, tendency to wander
- Mood swings, paranoia, aggression, childlike behavior
- Lack of decision-making ability
- Difficulty managing financial transactions
- Sleep disturbances
- Disassociation from formerly enjoyable pastimes
- Loss of motor skills, difficulty dressing oneself
- Inattention to personal hygiene
- Repetitive speech
B12 deficiency is common among the aging; physicians recommend a regular regimen of vitamin b12 supplementation in order to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or diminish the symptoms where dementia has already been established.