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As our population ages, the healthcare industry has taken a higher priority on identifying and eventually tackling issues that impact seniors.  One of the major areas that affects older generations is dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  It is estimated that over 50 million people have a form of dementia.  Currently, there is no cure but medication to ease some of the symptoms.  The main reason for that is the inability to accurately identify those with dementia.

The big news for seniors is that a blood test has been created to be able to identify individuals who may have these mind debilitating conditions.  At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, studies have shown that a new blood test is identifying those impacted by Alzheimer’s with over 85% accuracy.  The blood test measures abnormal versions of the protein that forms the plaques in the brain, which is usually associated with Alzheimer’s. Should this blood test prove effective, it would allow studies to be able to place the right individuals in their program.

The results were announced by Dr. Akinori Nakamura of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Obu, Japan. The blood test correctly identified 92% of people who had Alzheimer’s and correctly ruled out 85% who did not have it, for an overall accuracy of 88%.

The conference also brought up another test.  This looked at neurofilament light, a protein that’s a marker of nerve damage. Abdul Hye of King’s College London spoke about these results.  They compared the blood levels of 2,300 individuals who had various mental conditions which include dementia, depression, MS, and more.  The results showed significantly higher levels in eight conditions, and only 2% of healthy persons were above a threshold they set for raising concern. Since this test involved numerous conditions, it would be a very broad indicator but it’s still a good sign of better, easier tests for mental conditions.

Currently, the only tests are very invasive, expensive, and/or inaccurate.  For instance, some have to get spinal fluid tests or brain scans.  These are unrealistic for routine exams.  The above blood test would be an effective way to start getting to those impacted earlier and with better treatments.

Further testing will be needed to solidify this testing but hopes are running high for better testing and treatment for dementia.