There are many types of dementia, with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) being the most common, accounting for 60-80% of all cases of dementia. Although the biggest risk factor is increasing age, Alzheimer's and other dementias are not a normal process of aging. AD in particular can be difficult to clearly diagnose, and while researchers are discovering more ways like brain imaging and genetic testing to assist with diagnosis, there is still no single test. To date, there is also no cure for AD, but current treatments can lessen the symptoms and improve quality of life.
So, an interesting question came up recently at an annual healthy aging summit which focused on the brain this year. The participant asked if there were a definite diagnostic tool and/or genetic testing available that would determine your likelihood of having AD, why would someone want to find out if they have it since there is no cure yet? Great question!
The regional representative for the Alzheimer's Association was in attendance and had a great response. Reasons why someone with symptoms or family history of dementia might want to undergo the process for diagnosis:
- It might not be AD. There are so many other illnesses and conditions that have similar symptoms that are treatable! So at least you can check for other medical conditions and seek treatment for those if need needed.
- Get access to existing treatment options as early as possible - that will at least slow the progress and help control symptoms.
- Plan for the future – medically, legally, financially, and emotionally.
- Participate in a clinical trial, which may provide more medical benefits and will advance research.
- Achieve peace of mind. Sometimes just knowing what you are dealing with is enough for some people, It may be better than the unknown.
There are some great resources out there for those who are wondering about AD or other dementias or actively looking for more information. I would highly recommend contacting the Alzheimer's Association at 1-800-272-3900 or visit their website at www.alz.org The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is also a great resource. They can be reached by phone at 1-800-232-4636 or their website at www.cdc.gov The Administration on Community Living also has a great website on brain health at https://acl.gov/brain-health You can also contact your health care provider/organization and local senior centers for more information and services that may be available to help.
And again, practice those healthy lifestyle factors as early in life as you can!