Stats suggest that Alzheimer’s is on its way to converting into an epidemic disease. A new case of Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed every three seconds. In the US alone, nearly 500,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. The risk is escalating, and it is even higher for people with a family history of the disease.
According to Harvard Health Watch, people with a family history of dementia are at a 30 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The disease is associated with a specific gene known as apolipoprotein E (APOE4). The risk increases for children who inherit this gene from their parents.
The increase in risk, however, doesn’t mean that the child will definitely develop the disease. There have been reported cases of people with more than one copy of the APOE4 gene aging normally into their 70s and 80s. Likewise, many people may still develop the disease even in the absence of APOE4.
So, there is no need to panic. You are not bound to develop dementia because of your family history. But since you run a higher risk factor, it is best to aim for an early diagnosis.
Early diagnosis can play a vital role in changing the way Alzheimer’s effects a patient’s life and that of their loved ones. Effective braintests can have a positive impact on the quality of life after Alzheimer’s. Here are a few benefits that make early diagnosis extremely important for those with a family history of the disease.
1. Identification of reversible symptoms and treatable causes
Alzheimer’s disease is not irreversible, but some of its early symptoms are. Memory loss and confusion, for instance, are early symptoms that can be treated and improved through proper medication.
Moreover, certain underlying problems can expedite the onset of Alzheimer’s. Early diagnosis can help you treat those underlying issues properly. Health issues such as thyroid related diseases or Vitamin B12 deficiency are some of the treatable problems that often contribute to Alzheimer’s.
The sooner these issues are diagnosed, the less they will affect your memory and cognition.
2. Alzheimer’s is easier to manage in the early stages
Alzheimer’s medications turn out to be more effective when administered in the early stages. They may not stop or reverse the damage, but they can slow it down enough to allow patients to enjoy a better quality of life for longer.
Most of the medicines are effective only in marinating the current level of brain function with no improvement. This is like slowing down, if not stopping, the clock for the patient. The sooner, the better. However, it isn’t uncommon to see some improvement in patients who start early medication.
3. You can switch to a healthier lifestyle
Your lifestyle does play a role in expediting the progression of dementia. Unhealthy food, sleep deprivation, and even drinking are just a few of the things that aren’t healthy for the brain, especially when susceptible to age related degeneration.
Early diagnosis encourages a person to choose healthier habits. You can make better food choices. You can give your mind enough rest, and also indulge in mental exercises and activities that can improve the brain functioning.
4. More time to plan
Alzheimer’s is a disease that will eventually leave you unable to manage core aspects of your life, such as finances. So, early identification can help you plan it out more smartly. You can manage everything in a way that doesn’t put any burden on your loved ones.
You can take decisions about your future treatment. You can designate medical and financial power of attorney, choose your nursing home, and even your medical caregiver. Early diagnosis allows you to exercise your control more efficiently while you still can.
5. Create, cherish, and record memories
Knowing that you have a limited time to be who you are is a painful realization. Family and loved ones of Alzheimer’s patients watch memories slowly slipping out of the hands of their beloved. However, when you know that you still have time, you can use it to make and record more memories.
You can cherish the time spent with the person who may not remain the same after some time. Early diagnosis means you may still have years to be with that person, appreciate them, and love them for who they are.
6. Take adequate safety precautions
Alzheimer’s disease comes with several safety concerns. There have been cases of sudden and short-term memory loss during driving. These early signs of alzheimer’s can be dangerous. Even if it happens when the patient isn’t driving, it can leave them scared and disoriented. In this state, they are most likely to wander off.
When the disease is diagnosed early, you can identify those risks and avoid situations from where they arise.
7. Loved ones can prepare better
Taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is overwhelming. Sudden diagnosis in later stages is often unnerving for those who live with the patient. It takes time for them to get used to this entirely different person. The behavioral changes bring about many challenges that seem almost impossible when one isn’t prepared.
Giving your loved ones some time to prepare is the best thing you can do for them. When they know that the changes such as irritable behavior or forgetfulness have a reason, they are more patient and understanding. They also have enough time to learn how to cope and manage properly.
Lastly, people who are diagnosed early are the best candidates for Alzheimer’s related studies. You can play a useful role in the society and contribute to better understanding and treatment of the disease.
To sum it up, it won’t be wrong to say that early identification of the illness is beneficial for many. This involves not just the patient but also their loved ones and other people around the world who are most likely to develop dementia.
So, if Alzheimer’s runs in the family, keep visiting your doctor to ensure early diagnosis.
Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia