A new kind of clinic helps 30-somethings avoid Alzheimer's

Lifestyle changes in younger years could delay or prevent the disease's onset, some think

Some hospitals are opening Alzheimer's prevention clinics that focus on helping young patients who are genetically predisposed to dementia keep it at bay for as long as possible, Sumathi Reddy writes for the Wall Street Journal.

Are you at risk of Alzheimer's? New tests aim to help find answer.

This year, 5.2 million U.S. residents have Alzheimer's, and that number is expected to triple by 2050. Although no large studies have found a "cure or particularly effective treatment" for the disease, some studies have found that lifestyle modifications might help prevent or delay its onset.

At the Mayo Clinic, researchers are trying to create a formula to predict a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's. For the past 10 years, they have been monitoring 4,000 study participants to find associations between people who develop Alzheimer's and the signs they exhibit in the years before they develop it.

The new Alzheimer's prevention clinics

Richard Isaacson last year opened the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center for patients with a high risk of developing Alzheimer's who are looking decrease their risk. Isaacson argues that physicians should not wait for the results of randomized controlled trials before working with patients to prevent the disease.

Many of Isaacon's patients are in their 30s and 40s, and many have a family history of dementia. During sessions at the clinic, Isaacson's considers patients' answers on questions about their age, race, gender, family history, and lifestyle. He also conducts tests for dementia markers, such as inflammation, metabolism, and genetics.

 Isaacson has four relatives who have had Alzheimer's and says  that he does all the things he recommends for his patients, including cutting his intake of sugar and carbohydrates, consuming alcohol moderately, and playing an instrument. "You can't beat all your genes but you can do something," he says.

Should insurers require counseling for genetic testing?

Another outpatient Alzheimer's prevention clinic—the Alzheimer Risk Assessment and Intervention Clinic at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) Hospital, which opened in July—offers a two-visit program to individuals 45 and older with no symptoms of memory loss.  At the clinic, patients take a risk assessment, complete cognitive exams, and undergo an MRI scan to identify any brain shrinkage or stroke-related damage.

"Rarely a week goes by in my memory-disorder clinic when I'm not counseling a family member about risk," says David Geldmacher, medical director of neurology at UAB Hospital (Reddy, Wall Street Journal, 9/15).

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