Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes progressive mental deterioration resulting in memory loss and inhibition of other mental functions. Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s develops slowly over time, rather than manifesting itself over a period of a few days or weeks. As a result, testing for Alzheimer’s becomes essential to evaluating a person’s mental health.
Doctors may perform a number of different tests to confirm whether or not an individual has Alzheimer’s disease. These tests may include a variety of neurological and physical evaluations relating to motor skills and brain function. In some cases, a doctor may require a patient to participate in a brain imaging procedure, such as an MRI or CT scan. Additionally, some doctors will perform various blood tests to help rule out other possible causes of an individual’s memory loss.
Indicators to Test for Alzheimer’s disease
Caregivers of elderly individuals often wonder when they should consult with a doctor about Alzheimer’s disease and determine if testing is necessary. Ideally, everyone should be tested at some point in their lives to help monitor the health of their mind. However, there are other factors that might dictate when someone should be tested for Alzheimer’s.
Loss or change in memory
The most urgent indicator that someone should be tested for Alzheimer’s is if they are already showing symptoms of the disease. A notable change in memory – such as forgetting people’s names or where they left their car keys – is an indicator of the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Over time, these symptoms progress to more troublesome situations, such as the inability to carry on a conversation or perform daily functions. If an individual displays any of these symptoms, even if they are mild, a doctor should evaluate them as soon as possible.
Another thing to take into consideration when determining whether someone should get tested for Alzheimer’s disease is his or her genetics. Generally speaking, people are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease if a close relative (such as a parent or grandparent) has previously been diagnosed, or if they carry certain genetic markers. People who are considered “at risk” for developing Alzheimer’s disease should begin regular testing around their 40th birthday. For “at risk” individuals, regular testing will help their doctor create a record of their brain’s health and monitor any changes that might occur. The earlier an “at risk” individual gets tested, the more likely their doctor may also be able to help them maintain a healthy brain and prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.
No one is immune
Once an individual starts their senior years, even if they are not showing any symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and don’t have any genetic predispositions to it, they should still get tested for it. There are two reasons for this:
- Even people who are not “at risk” can develop the disease. Alzheimer’s is a complex disease caused by a number of factors, and no one is completely immune to it.
- At the very least, regular testing helps doctors keep an eye on the mental health of a patient and note any changes they or their caregivers might otherwise overlook.
For these reasons, people should be scheduled to test for Alzheimer’s disease between the ages of 55 and 65.
The sooner treatment for Alzheimer’s disease starts, the better.
Admittedly, it is never fun to schedule doctors’ appointments and go through any sort of testing – especially for a disease such as Alzheimer’s. However, early diagnosis is essential to give an individual and their family time to prepare for the future, both emotionally and financially. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are treatment options available. Starting treatment sooner rather than later can prolong the more severe effects of the disease with the right medication. It is never too late to speak with a medical provider about ways to maintain a happy and healthy brain.