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Scientists Develop Blood Test to Detect Alzheimer's Disease

Sunday, November 09, 2008 by: Margaret Priddy
Tags: Alzheimer's, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) A blood test to detect Alzheimer's disease has been developed by a California biotech company. Scientists there say that the test is about 90% accurate. This blood test can detect Alzheimer's two to six years before the onset of symptoms.

The brain sends signals to the body's immune system. These signals pick up changes in the blood proteins in the brain. Scientists can then "eavesdrop" on how the cells communicate with each other. Certain changes in blood proteins produce a pattern that's characteristic to Alzheimer's.

It is difficult to diagnose Alzheimer's since there is no definitive test for the disease. Diagnosis is usually made by excluding other possible causes of memory loss such as brain tumors, head injuries, stroke, alcoholism, drug abuse, dehydration, and vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies. Even when a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is made, the only way to be sure of the diagnosis is upon autopsy, where under microscopic examination, the brain reveals twisted fragments of protein. This plaque normally occurs with age but is more pronounced in Alzheimer's.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, more that 5 million Americans are afflicted with the disease. The disease presents a picture of progressive physical and mental decline to the point of total disability. There is memory loss, confusion, depression, paranoia and impaired decision-making ability. Sufferers misplace items, experience hallucinations and delusions, get lost and are eventually unable to recognize family members. Loss of bowel and bladder occur as well as an inability to communicate. Individuals usually die in less than 15 years.

A commercial blood test for Alzheimer's will be developed for use in research labs and will eventually be used as a diagnostic test upon approval. But scientists state that it may be a few years before the test is approved for use by doctors. The test would be offered to those whose close relatives had the disease and who may be suffering memory loss themselves.

Many individuals say they would not want to know if they would develop the disease. Others state that they would want to know so they could get their affairs in order: affairs such as writing a will, modifying their home environment, and enlisting support from friends and family. Still others fear that insurance companies would raise rates for those at risk or deny coverage altogether.

An early diagnosis might give patients a chance to make changes to their diet and exercise more in an effort of slowing or staving off chances of getting the disease.

Heredity only plays a part in an individual getting Alzheimer's. Heredity does not result in Alzheimer's by itself. Environmental factors likely contribute to the overall picture. Research has been done into environmental factors such as free radicals. These are unbalanced molecules that cause damage to cells. Proper nutrition and herbal treatments prevent and fight damage from free radicals.

It is prudent to avoid substances such as aluminum (found in many products including antiperspirants and cookware) and mercury since they can be taken into the body and reside in tissues. These toxins may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's.

Some researchers believe that cortisol, a stress hormone, is a causative factor in Alzheimer's disease when elevated over a prolonged period of time. Also, homocysteine is a by-product of protein metabolism and when elevated, may contribute to Alzheimer's.

A German government study used ginkgo biloba daily for 3 months on patients with early Alzheimer's and discovered that the patients had improved memory, attention and mood.

Other natural therapies some doctors are using are as follows:

* Folate, or vitamin B9, is important to the nervous system. Folate, along with other B vitamins, help eliminate homocysteine from the blood.

* Vitamin E is also an antioxidant and a scavenger of free radicals. A 2-year study showed that Alzheimer's patients who took vitamin E supplements had improved symptoms as compared to those who took a placebo. Vitamin E is fat soluble and readily enters the brain where it is thought to slow cell damage.

* Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) is used as a brain tonic and reduces stress hormone levels. Take according to recommendation on product label.

* DHEA is a hormone used to help cognitive function. If levels are low in the body, the doctor may start a patient on 15 mg.

* A good antioxidant will help fight free radicals.

* Chlorella aids in the detoxification process of heavy metals.

About the author

Margaret Priddy has been a registered nurse for over 25 years and has assisted in the treatment of many individuals suffering from illnesses. She has now shifted her focus to disease prevention.

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