A Discussion with UCLA’s Alzheimer’s Center for Research on Diagnosis, Detection, and Treatment
During an exclusive presentation hosted by The Kensington recently, a new diagnostic procedure that could provide earlier Alzheimer’s detection was revealed. Due to a partnership with The Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, Sierra Madre residents, friends, and family could virtually view an interactive conversation on the latest breakthroughs and research.
Dr. Sarah Kremen, associate professor of neurology at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, discussed these new findings as well as current methods to diagnose Alzheimer’s, the inefficiencies of these methods, and how Alzheimer’s can possibly be prevented.
Learn more about the new breakthroughs, discover how Alzheimer’s detection is done, and read about how you and your loved ones can try to prevent memory loss with diet and exercise below.
The Easton Center at UCLA: Dedicated to Alzheimer’s Breakthrough and Research
The Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research focuses on the overwhelming need for earlier diagnosis and new methods to slow the course of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The Easton Center’s mission is to improve the quality of life for patients and caregivers, develop new medications and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions, and support research to better understand Alzheimer’s and related conditions.
Sierra Madre is proud to partner with and learn from this comprehensive research center in order to improve the treatment and quality of life of our own residents in our memory care community.
If you are interested in viewing the interactive conversation with Dr. Kremen, you can watch the video here.
How is Alzheimer’s detected?
In working to detect why a person is experiencing memory loss, doctors must rule out other medical conditions. A large part of determining whether someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia is to discover whether their memory loss is a result of another disease or illness, such as a head injury, medication side effects, tumors, blood clots, vitamin deficiencies, or other cause.
Once other medical conditions can be ruled out, doctors must determine whether the memory loss is Alzheimer’s, or if it is dementia caused by something else. To make these determinations, doctors will look at a person’s:
- Current and past health
- Medications and diet
- Ability to carry out daily activities
- Behavior or personality changes
Doctors will order standard medical tests such as blood and urine analysis, conduct memory and problem-solving tests, and perform brain scans. These tests most likely will be repeated over time, because someone experiencing memory loss and potentially developing Alzheimer’s or dementia will need to be evaluated for developments.
Biomarkers, which are measures of what is happening inside the body, can help detect the brain changes in people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Since these brain changes can begin many years before memory loss symptoms appear, biomarkers can be essential to early intervention.
The problem is, examining biomarkers can be inaccessible to many, because these tests aren’t often used in a doctor’s office. They can be invasive and expensive, and most methods are still in the early stages of research and development. That’s why the latest breakthrough in Alzheimer’s detection has great potential to help with early detection.
Current types of biomarkers and tests include:
- Brain imaging
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
- Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
- Blood tests
- Genetic tests
Biomarkers can measure changes in the size and function of the brain, plus certain proteins detected in brain scans, CSF, and blood. CT and MRI scans mainly check out brain size, shape, and structure. But PET scans and CSF tests can measure for abnormal protein deposits of beta-amyloid or tau.
Higher levels of beta-amyloid can indicate Alzheimer’s disease, as well as abnormal accumulations of tau that form tangles in nerve cells in Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
What are the inefficiencies of current diagnostic procedures for Alzheimer’s?
Most current diagnostic procedures for Alzheimer’s don’t appear to allow for early enough detection and intervention. There’s a heavy reliance on those experiencing memory loss and their families to understand the changes that are occurring and be able to intervene.
Many people may understandably be reluctant to admit they are experiencing memory problems, or to address the behavior changes they witness in a loved one. It can be embarrassing, and the diagnosis itself can be devastating. The fact that Alzheimer’s disease has no cure can also deter people from getting help, because they feel discouraged.
But early detection of Alzheimer’s can be beneficial and allow for more treatment options. Also, if your loved one’s memory loss is caused by another illness and not Alzheimer’s, it’s important that they receive the proper treatment. Fortunately, the latest breakthrough in Alzheimer’s can offer new hope to families.
What is the latest breakthrough in Alzheimer’s detection and diagnosis?
During the interactive discussion with UCLA experts, Dr. Sarah Kremen revealed the exciting breakthrough: a new blood test can detect the biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s and provide an earlier diagnosis than current tests.
A blood test to detect the beta-amyloid, tau, and other proteins would be simpler, less invasive, and less expensive than other methods. The test, developed by C2N Diagnostics, is a big step toward the widespread use of biomarkers clinically, leading to an earlier and more accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and dementia and better treatment.
While current testing, such as PET scans and CSF tests, are able to accurately detect these proteins in the brain as well, these tests are not widely available to the public. The up-and-coming commercial blood test is designed for people 60 and older who are experiencing memory loss and seeking Alzheimer’s testing.
What can be done for Alzheimer’s prevention?
Research on strategies to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s is promising. In general, keeping your brain and body active with regular physical activity and cognitively stimulating activities such as reading, playing games, or puzzles can help. Dr. Kremen said physical activity can help reduce anti-inflammatory factors and reduce the rate of neurodegeneration in the brain.
Equally as important as physical and mental activity is addressing your mental health and stress levels. High levels of stress will wear on the body and brain, and can actually result in a more rapid development of a neurodegenerative disease.
There also is research to suggest a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans, and whole grains, can help keep your brain and heart healthy. It could potentially slow cognitive decline in older adults, reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and reduce the risk of MCI turning into Alzheimer’s or dementia.
The Kensington partnership with UCLA Alzheimer’s research
The interactive conversation with Dr. Kremen of UCLA, moderated by Community Health Program Manager Monica Moore, MSG, of the Easton Center, was one of the many events we hosted to learn about emerging detection, diagnosis, and treatment methods available for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The Kensington team is passionate about learning and providing the best support and treatments for our memory care residents. The latest Alzheimer’s breakthroughs, such as the biomarker blood test, are advancements we will continue to explore.
Our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own, and this is why we have created a community with a full spectrum of clinical support. We want our residents to be able to “age in place” in a community where they can remain at home no matter how their health needs change over time.
Please contact us to learn more about our community and what we offer to residents and their families. We know you will find a home with us.
To learn more about our exceptional assisted living and memory care at The Kensington Sierra Madre, click below or give us a call today for any questions. We promise to love and care for your family, as we do our own.