Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5.5 million Americans, and its prevalence is growing. More than 90,000 Americans die of Alzheimer’s disease each year. Should you be tested for Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and may be the third leading cause of death for older adults, right behind heart disease and cancer, according to the National Institute on Aging. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of people dying of Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercise, healthy eating and other behavioral changes may help stave off Alzheimer’s, but they have not been found to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that, over time, destroys your ability to think and remember as well as to do even simple tasks. It is irreversible.
Today, brain scans and spinal taps can find high levels of amyloid in people’s brains, a sign of the Alzheimer’s protein, and a proclivity to Alzheimer’s disease. And, a blood test will soon be able to find amyloid beta in people’s brains as long as twenty years before they experience Alzheimer’s symptoms.
The question becomes whether you would want to get that blood test or brain scan? On one hand, it could help prepare you for the disease. But, Alzheimer’s comes on gradually, so early diagnosis would still give you time to prepare. Moreover, knowing you were likely to get Alzheimer’s before you had real symptoms wouldn’t tell you when you would get the disease. So, what is the value in knowing? Would you want your family and friends to know?
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