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Dementia: The ‘changes’ that can signal brain decline decades before memory loss kicks in

Fitness & Health:

The best weapon the world has so far wielded against dementia is early detection. By understanding the changes that can eventually lead to dementia, it raises the hope of forestalling it. It’s an evolving picture but strides have been made.

One of the most important insights is that “brain changes linked to the diseases that cause dementia can start in the brain up to 20 years before symptoms like memory loss appear”, said Doctor Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK.

According to Doctor Sara, detecting these changes is “extremely difficult” but to have the best chance of effectively treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, “we need to diagnose people earlier than we do today”.

She continued: “A key early brain change in Alzheimer’s disease is a build-up of the amyloid protein.

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“While we can detect levels of this protein with expensive brain scans and other biological tests, not everyone with high levels of amyloid will go on to develop the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.”

READ MORE: Dementia: New study finds a feeling may precede memory loss as the first warning sign

Out of 9,046 participants, 567 developed dementia during the period of observation.

People who were diagnosed with dementia reported slightly more pain as early as 16 years before their diagnosis, driven mostly by differences in pain interference.

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These participants reported steadily increasing pain levels relative to those who were never diagnosed with dementia.

Although many people who have dementia also have chronic pain, it is unclear whether chronic pain causes or accelerates the onset of dementia, is a symptom of dementia, or is simply associated with dementia because both are caused by some other factor.

Speaking about the advances in early detection, Doctor Sara Imarisio, said: “Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases (EDoN) initiative is working to pick up the earliest changes caused by diseases like Alzheimer’s using data collected by wearable technologies like watches or headbands.

“In future, this approach could help doctors to detect the early stages of a disease that cause dementia 10-15 years before we can today.”

“Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases (EDoN) initiative is working to pick up the earliest changes caused by diseases like Alzheimer’s using data collected by wearable technologies like watches or headbands. In future, this approach could help doctors to detect the early stages of a disease that cause dementia 10-15 years before we can today.”


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