Early diagnosis of dementia

The National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association of the USA have collaborated to produce the first revision of the diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s Disease in 25 years. This revision was necessary to keep up with the changes in knowledge of the disease and its biomarkers many of which were not known or understood 25 years ago.

The revision has introduced Preclinical AD as a category now that research is able identify early signs of the disease process with biomarkers such as genes including APOE4, plaques of amlyoid beta and the protein tau which is associated with neurofibrillary tangles. This category will allow researchers to identify people at risk of developing signs of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and then AD itself. Not everyone who has these early signs of memory loss or other problems with thinking will go on to develop MCI or AD. And this is one of the important reasons for trying to understand the way this underlying disease process works and what other factors might make it worse or prevent it developing. Researchers have found that healthy diet, exercise and stimulating cognitive activity all reduce the risk of AD. So its a matter of trying to understand more about the way all of these factors relate together over a lifetime and these new criteria will help to make those connections.

You can view the new diagnostic criteria at www.alz.org/research/diagnostic_criteria