P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of biological psychiatry at Duke University and a Senior Fellow at Duke’s Center for the Study of Aging, discusses progress towards finding an Alzheimer’s cure in an interview for Scientific American. He highlights exciting advances in Alzheimer’s diagnosis and steps anyone can take to prevent memory loss.
Alzheimer's treatment: the importance of strategy
According to Doraiswamy, having an active treatment strategy is key. “The two biggest misconceptions are ‘It’s just aging’ and ‘It’s untreatable, so we should just leave the person alone.’ Both of these misconceptions are remnants of an outdated view that hinders families from getting the best diagnosis and best care.”
Researchers have yet to find an Alzheimer’s cure, but the disease is not untreatable. A combination of medication and lifestyle management can help to delay the progression of symptoms. “Strategies to enhance general brain and mental wellbeing,” Doraiswamy adds, “can also help people with Alzheimer’s. That’s why early detection is so important.”
Breakthroughs in early detection
A breakthrough in early detection may be on the horizon. “By using a combination of biomarkers, genetic tests and new brain scans, we are inching very close to predicting not only who will develop Alzheimer’s but the exact age when they may start developing symptoms.”
One such method is the use of Amyloid PET scans. “Amyloid PET scans are in the late stages of validation testing to see if they can improve the accuracy of clinical diagnosis.” The scan would allow doctors to identify beta-amyloid plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s before cognitive impairments become outwardly noticeable, allowing diagnosis in the critical early stages.
Steps you can take to protect your mind
In the meantime, there are simple steps anyone can take to help protect their cognitive health. Doraiswamy recommends a healthy lifestyle, active social life, stress management and cognitive stimulation as key goals to strive for to support mental function.
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