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Published on: November 4, 2014
by Megan Ray for Sunrise Senior Living:
Despite the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, the only proven methods of detecting signs of the disease before symptoms appear are costly, time-consuming and sometimes painful. However, a recent study may have pointed the way toward better early detection.
Blood fats linked to Alzheimer’s
In a study conducted by members of six universities and published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers found that levels of different fats in the blood may indicate the likelihood of a person developing dementia. Levels of 10 fats were identified as possible markers of dementia, with a lack of fats considered healthy for the body emerging as a risk factor.
Researchers drew blood from more than 500 people over the age of 70 for the study, NPR reported. Over five years, they monitored which participants developed cognitive impairments and which didn’t, then looked for patterns in their blood. This gave the researchers the list of 10 fats that seemed to reduce dementia risk. They then gave another 40 volunteers blood tests for these 10 fats and tests that are used to identify genes connected with Alzheimer’s. Compared to using just a gene test, analyzing the blood of participants produced more accurate predictions of dementia.
Only the beginning
As researchers told NPR, more study will be needed before such as blood test can be used diagnostically. Wider pools of volunteers must be tested to determine whether the association between blood fats and dementia exists in the general population. If a blood test for dementia risk became part of mainstream Alzheimer’s care, however, researchers said that it could provide an easier, more affordable way of predicting risk. With knowledge of their susceptibility to dementia, seniors may be able to better prepare for the future, according to University of Pennsylvania professor of medicine, medical ethics and health policy, Jason Karlawish.
“Knowing their risk of developing cognitive impairment is very relevant to making plans around retirement and where they live. So there is certainly a role for knowing that information,” Karlawish told NPR.
The study didn’t prove that levels of blood fats could increase or decrease dementia risk, according to AARP. Researchers said that the two seemed to be connected, but that they didn’t know how.
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