Diagnosing Alzheimer's With Simple, Free Test - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Diagnosing Alzheimer's With Simple, Free Test

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COLUMBUS, OH - Where are your keys? How do you get to the store? What's your child's name? More than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease struggle with these questions daily. Since a new person is diagnosed every 70 seconds, it's critical to catch it early. There's a new, free way to test your memory and help doctors get you started on the right treatment. 

"My mom's the brightest woman I've ever, ever met, bar none," said Tracey Manz. 

"She's the best thing," said Tracey's mother, Geneva. 

"We're the bestest of friends," Tracey added. "We've always been." 

"She's always there for me," said Geneva. 

Geneva's going to need her daughter even more, soon. She's suffering from Alzheimer's. 

"You start out, you find yourself lost, and you have to ask for help, and that's hard," said Geneva. 

Geneva's mother and three brothers have all dealt with Alzheimer's. The family history includes physical exams, cognitive tests, brain scans and blood tests that help determine the cause of memory loss.  

"Patients don't come to their doctor to complain, 'I got memory loss,' like they might with a sore thumb," said Douglas W. Scharre, M.D., director of the division of cognitive neurology at Ohio State University. "So, they put it off. They think they don't have a problem, so they don't tell the doctor, and the doctor has no clue." 

Dr. Scharre has developed a simple, free test. It asks patients to ID pictures, draw, and test their memory. 

Problems suggest signs of Alzheimer's. Struggling with the visual and spatial skills on the test could mean dementia. Issues with planning and problem-solving point to medication interactions. Doctors can interpret the results in less than a minute. 

"You can just look at it and clearly see that it's clearly wrong or clearly right, and you'll get a gestalt that they're not really doing well," said Dr. Scharre. 

Geneva took the test for us, answering nine out of 22 questions correctly. Missing just six questions is a red flag. 

"I could have done a lot better than that," said Geneva. "I know that." 

Doctor Scharre said Geneva has trouble with calculations, word-finding, problem-solving and memory. 

You can download this test at www.sagetest.osu.edu

While the test is free, it should be administered by a doctor, so he/she can interpret it correctly. Doctor Scharre said the test cannot only detect memory problems early, but it can also calm the fears of people who think they're losing their memory.   

RESEARCH SUMMARY:

ALZHEIMER'S PREVALENCE: According to the 2010 report on Alzheimer's Facts and Figures, an estimated 60 to 80 percent of patients with Alzheimer's disease suffer from dementia. Dementia is a form of Alzheimer's, in which patients have a hard time remembering names, locations, people, and recent events. During the beginning stages of dementia patients encounter depression. Later symptoms of dementia include, but are not limited to, disorientation, confusion, difficulty swallowing and gait. In that same report, women reportedly had dementia more than men and currently, 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that someone develops Alzheimer's every 70 seconds and by the middle of the century, someone will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's every 33 seconds!

BACKGROUND: The 2010 Alzheimer's Facts and Figures report also explains what Alzheimer's disease actually is. With Alzheimer's disease, many cells break down and eventually die. In a healthy adult brain, information flows through connections called synapses. With Alzheimer's, the transfer of communication through these synapses fails and the end result is a decrease in cells. Symptoms of Alzheimer's include: memory loss that disrupts daily activities, trouble completing every day household tasks, mood and personality changes, extraction from work and social activities, misplacing things, and the inability to retrace steps.

EDUCATION RELATED? Statistics show that people who have little to no education are at higher risks of developing Alzheimer's than those who have more education. Researchers say the more education one has, the more of a "cognitive reserve" they have that helps ward off dementia and other related illnesses.

TREATMENT: There is no treatment for Alzheimer's disease. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved five different medications that have been proven to slow the progression of symptoms in Alzheimer's patients for about 6 months. Additionally, data shows brain health is linked to health of blood vessels. Consequently, proper management of things such as blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and type-2 diabetes, may help delay brain decay.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
David Crawford
Ohio State University
Medical Center Communications
(O) 614-293-3737
Email: David.Crawford@osumc.edu

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