Alzheimer’s it’s a disease that many people pray they or their loved ones don’t get. But looking at the current social context, there is no denying that the disease is more relevant to us than it seems, as it usually manifests itself from the age of 60. Because we are in an aging society, dementia therefore becomes more common.
Currently, 50 million people suffer from dementia worldwide. In Thailand, there are 700 thousand such patients, 500 thousand of whom suffer from Alzheimer’s. Without individual and societal measures to delay or prevent dementia, the number of cases will increase. It is estimated that the global population of elderly people with dementia will triple in thirty years!
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are incurable, so it’s best to prevent them from developing or slow them down as soon as possible.
Poosanu Thanapornsangsuth, DM, Professor of Neurology in the Department of Medicine and head of the Neurodegenerative Diseases Biomarkers Project at the Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Center of the Thai Red Cross, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, discusses the approach to Alzheimer’s prevention: ” Alzheimer’s has an incubation period of 10 – 15 years before the onset of symptoms, and may be called latent Alzheimer’s. Patients do not have any symptoms. They can function normally. By the time the disease has progressed to the point where symptoms manifest, the patient would have already lost many brain cells, and rehabilitating or saving the brain is difficult. Now we have medical technology that allows us to detect the presence of the disease before people’s retirement age, so that we can take care of ourselves and stay away from dementia before symptoms appear.”
Elderly people at risk of dementia
Dementia can be caused by many reasons and many diseases, but the most important culprit is Alzheimer’s disease and the second is vascular diseases. The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not known, however, there are many contributing factors including genetics, environment, pollution, stress, etc.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease often occur in older people aged 60 and over, with 1 in 16 people over 60 having a chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, while in those aged 80 and over, the proportion increases to 1 at 6.
“The longer a person lives, the greater the likelihood of dementia.”
Dementia begins with forgetting past events. As symptoms increase, patients become less and less able to help themselves, until they are unable to go about their daily activities alone as they used to, requiring constant supervision. And when the disease reaches the final stage, they are at risk of dying from infections.
“This disease is a nightmare for patients as it erases the patient’s identity that has been forged over time. Living is full of challenges, affecting loved ones in the family,” said Poosanu.
Predicting Dementia Before Symptoms Appear
In general, there are two ways to check for Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms appear:
- PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography) is a nuclear diagnostic technology that uses imaging to assess the function of organs and tissues within the body. The cost of the exam is quite high and it takes 2-3 days to complete.
- Lumbar puncture and subsequent measurement of the level of Alzheimer’s-causing protein in the spinal fluid. In Thailand, this procedure should only be done by a doctor. This method has been used sparingly because many people are afraid of possible pain.
doctor Poosanu reveals that currently, the Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Sciences Center uses immunologic techniques to perform blood tests instead of lumbar puncture, and the analysis is done by Simon (single molecule array) or LC-MS (mass spectrometry) to detect phosphorylated tau in the blood that may indicate the presence of latent Alzheimer’s, and chan neurofilament light, a test of brain cell loss. The project is funded by the Institute of Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI).
This approach offers a more affordable solution with a less complex and less painful procedure, yielding more accurate results.
“Detecting Alzheimer’s proteins with a blood test is a new, cost-effective procedure that can yield up to 88% accuracy. As with the techniques used abroad, the cost of the exam is low compared to traditional methods. Importantly, it also increases accessibility to the service,” said Dr. Elaborate Poosanu. “The test is simple and safe. The test subject does not need to fast prior to blood collection. Only 10cc. of blood is needed for a single test and the analysis takes 2 months to get results.”
Subjects will also be required to take a cognitive test to assess their “brain reserve”.
“Alzheimer’s or other latent diseases don’t always manifest, especially in those with good brain reserve,” said Dr. Poosanu.
The result of the blood test should be analyzed in conjunction with the result of the cognitive test. The whole process, especially the digestion of the results, is complicated and should only be done by an expert!
Take care of yourself today to reduce the chance of latent dementia
For people with risk factors for dementia or Alzheimer’s, whether due to genetics, environment, pollution or aging, good self-care will reduce additional risk factors and the likelihood of dementia by 40%. The Doctor. Phusanu further recommends a course of action to prevent dementia:
Take care not to have noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., or if you have NCDs, treat and manage them well.
People suffering from deafness have difficulty hearing, their brain is not stimulated and this can easily lead to dementia. Seek medical treatment.
Eat nutritious foods, especially foods that help prevent dementia, such as fruits and vegetables. The meat must be seafood. Refrain from desserts, salty and fried foods. Eat vegetable fats such as olive oil or nut oil, etc. Do not smoke. Reduce or stop drinking.
“Most importantly, exercise every day for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Exercise can reduce dementia because it helps the body produce the brain’s regenerating substance,” concluded Dr. Phusanu.
However, in addition to the risk factors that each person can take care of to maintain their physical and mental health, there are other social risk factors involved, such as air pollution, depression and social isolation resulting from living alone. These risk factors require the cooperation of people in society to take care of their environment and relationships so that we can stay away from Alzheimer’s.
Those interested in blood tests to detect latent Alzheimer’s can follow news and updates on the Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Center Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/trceid.