Genetic Test Can Help Determine Likelihood of Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists in America have developed a new genetic test that can help determine the age in which a person is likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

University of California San Diego School of Medicine scientists looked into various mutations found in 26 different genes which are commonly found in many dementia patients.

This information was then compiled together to create a ‘hazard score’, which depending on a person’s individual genetic makeup, could help determine the likelihood of dementia occurring at particular ages.

“From a clinical perspective, this provides a novel way not just to assess an individual’s lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but also to predict the age of the disease onset,” said senior author of the project, Dr Anders Dale.

“Equally important, testing of Alzheimer’s genetic risk can better inform prevention and therapeutic trials and be useful in determining which individuals are most likely to respond to therapy.”

Further research still needed

Those individuals with a high ‘hazard score’ were commonly found to have decreased memory capabilities, as well as a reduction in overall brain volume, signs that are common in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

However, the team behind the project explain that while useful, the ‘hazard score’ is not a wholly accurate predictor of Alzheimer’s.

Dr Rosa Sancho of Alzheimer’s Research UK stressed that further investigation is still needed before the test could be used by doctors to help with their diagnosis of the disease.

“While these genetic risk scores hold promise as valuable research tools, they will need to be thoroughly evaluated, tested and refined before they could ever be used to help doctors diagnose or treat the disease,” she said.

“This particular study focused on people of European descent and the risk score now needs to be applied in other populations, as we know Alzheimer’s risk can vary between different ethnic groups.”

Lifestyle choices are also important

Dr Rosa Sancho also expressed the need for healthy lifestyle choices, as these can also help combat the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

“Genetics is only part of the story and we know that lifestyle factors also influence our risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

“The best current evidence points to habits we can all adopt to help lower our risk and indicates that what’s good for your heart is also good for the brain.

“Eating a healthy balanced diet, keeping physically and mentally active, not smoking, drinking in moderation, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check and maintaining a healthy weight are all ways to support healthy brain ageing.”

Planning in advance

The need to determine the risk of Alzheimer’s before it occurs is often a priority for families, as the earlier it can be predicted, the more time people have to plan ahead and be prepared if it is diagnosed.

Planning ahead can allow families to look into what they feel would be best for their loved one. For those wishing to still be independent home care is often a common choice, as it allows those to still live at home but still have access to the help they need.

Many different home care services are available, so the more time families have to plan, the more they can be assured that the home care selected is the right one for them.

For family members who opt to become carers for their loved one, many also look into respite care.

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