Alzheimer’s: diagnosis, treatment, prevention

Research Review provides hope for greater accuracy in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

SUMMARY: Cognitive decline, defined as significant changes in a person’s ability to think, remember, and communicate, is a major healthcare problem. Many adults over the age of 70 notice changes in these thought processes. Progressive changes can lead to functional deficits. For example, people with progressive memory loss may have difficulty making a cup of coffee or paying bills. These changes result in reduced functional independence and lead to increased reliance on loved-ones and caregivers. Increasing age is the major risk in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common type of degenerative dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is caused by progressive brain changes that evolve over many years. This article describes many exciting new research developments designed to improve diagnostic accuracy treatment, and disease prevention.

One new research finding is that regular exercise can enhance cognitive functioning. Another main point of this article is the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, including the diagnostic category of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is the term used to characterize patients who present with significant changes on standardized tests of cognitive function but who do not show any significant changes in daily functions; for example patients with MCI can make a cup of coffee, and shower independently. Some patients with the early diagnosis of MCI do not progress, as seen in Table 2 that also lists different MCI subtypes. The final section describes the ongoing development of new drug therapies aimed at changing disease course by improving symptoms to maintain functional independence.

This review paper is published in the Psychiatric Times.

TITLE: Brain Aging and Dementia: Practical Tips from Clinical Research

RESEARCH TEAM: Anne L. Foundas, MD; Katherine Hester Smith, MD; Jo Huey, MS