In a new study, researchers found that people with a high risk of Alzheimer’s may show memory changes up to 40 years before the disease starts.
The research was conducted by a team from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, and the University of Arizona.
In the study, the team examined nearly 60,000 individuals aged 18-85. They gathered the data through an online word-pair memory test called MindCrowd.
It is one of the world’s largest scientific assessments of how healthy brains function.
The team found that people with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, and who are younger than 65, on average do not perform as well as their peers who do not have a family history of Alzheimer’s.
The results showed that the family history effect is particularly strong among men, as well as those with lower educational attainment, diabetes, and carriers of a common genetic change in APOE.
APOE is a gene long associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk.
In addition, family history is linked to reduced learning performance as many as 40 years before the typical start of Alzheimer’s disease.
Because there is no cure or proven way of slowing progressive memory-loss among those with Alzheimer’s, the team says early indicators of the disease can help people at risk to focus on ways to help prevent dementia.
Reducing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease is now more critical than ever due to the lack of a cure or effective treatment.
Living a healthy lifestyle and properly treating disease states such as diabetes and high blood pressure are very important.
The team hopes their findings open the door to the development of more targeted risk-reduction approaches to combat the disease.
This is the first study of its kind that indicates this risk can be detected up to four decades before the typical age of onset.
The senior author of the study is Dr. Matt Huentelman, TGen Professor of Neurogenomics.
The study is published in the scientific journal eLife.
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