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A problem shared by mother-of-four and GP Clare Bailey: Should I take the early test for dementia? | Daily Mail Online

A problem shared by mother-of-four and GP Clare Bailey: Should I take the early test for dementia?
  • Anonymous woman, from the UK, is considering testing for Alzheimer’s disease
  • Explained her mother, who is in her 70s, developed Alzheimer’s two years ago
  • Clare Bailey told the reader to think about lifestyle factors that increase their risk

By Clare Bailey For The Daily Mail

Published: 23:42 GMT, 22 December 2021 | Updated: 23:42 GMT, 22 December 2021

Q Should I take a test for Alzheimer’s disease? My mother is in her 70s and developed Alzheimer’s two years ago, and my sister and I, both in our 50s, are worried we might get it, too. I read that there is a test for it, but will it be able to tell us definitively yes or no?

A You are right to be concerned, because dementia is now the most common cause of death in women in the UK.

When you have it in your family or, like me, reach a certain age and start to wonder if you’re becoming forgetful and your brain is slowing down, it can be worrying. So I was interested to read recently about a new test that can predict your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, which is a common form of dementia.

An anonymous woman, who lives in the UK, asked Clare Bailey if she should take a test for Alzheimer's disease (file image)
An anonymous woman, who lives in the UK, asked Clare Bailey if she should take a test for Alzheimer's disease (file image)

An anonymous woman, who lives in the UK, asked Clare Bailey if she should take a test for Alzheimer's disease (file image)

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in the U.S., have identified 16 proteins in the blood which they say predict Alzheimer’s risk up to 20 years in advance of a person developing it.

Preventing or treating Alzheimer’s before it develops is one of the Holy Grails of neuroscience, because once it takes hold, there is no medical treatment that can stop it.

This test isn’t available yet, but there is another genetic test that can assess your Alzheimer’s risk. It’s not routinely used in the NHS, but is available online, via 23andme.com. Do think carefully before doing it; how will you feel if it shows you have a higher risk? Will you tell your family?

My husband Michael took this test a few years ago and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the result. Thankfully, it turned out he didn’t have a higher risk.

Instead of focusing on your genetic susceptibility, I’d advise you both to think about lifestyle factors that increase your risk, since you can do something about these. They include diabetes, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and poor diet (no wonder Alzheimer’s is often referred to as type 3 diabetes). The earlier you make lifestyle changes, the better. Here’s what I suggest:

Clare (pictured) advised the reader to think about lifestyle factors that could increase her risk of developing Alzheimer's disease
Clare (pictured) advised the reader to think about lifestyle factors that could increase her risk of developing Alzheimer's disease

Clare (pictured) advised the reader to think about lifestyle factors that could increase her risk of developing Alzheimer's disease

THREE THINGS TO AVOID:

Celebrating Christmas with friends and relatives face to face trumps any digital contact. But for many, that’s not an option. This year we are missing two of our children who are working abroad, so they will be dialling in. The good news is that a phone call letting people know that you appreciate them can work wonders. It boosts feel-good hormone oxytocin and reduces the stress hormone cortisol. In a study of stressed women at university, those who received a phone call from their mother produced the same oxytocin surge as those who were comforted by physical contact. So do pick up that phone. 

1. Sugary and ultra-processed foods that clog your arteries, increase your blood sugars and kill off the ‘good’ microbes in your gut which reduce inflammation.

2. Keep below the recommended 14 units of alcohol per week.

3. If you smoke, quit. Now.

FIVE THINGS TO DO:

1. Regular exercise, particularly high-intensity interval training, known as HIIT (short bursts of intense exercise).

2. Eat a Mediterranean diet, rich in healthy natural fats, nuts and fish, as well as plenty of vegetables and pulses. And include gut-friendly fermented foods such as sauerkraut, live yoghurts and sourdough bread.

3. Maintain a healthy weight. Try intermittent fasting for 12 to 14 hours overnight, or an 800 calories-a-day diet once or twice a week.

4. Age-proof your brain; learn a new skill such as a language, or enrol in dancing classes.

5. Manage stress. Get a good night’s sleep and practise meditation. If you become increasingly forgetful, see your GP.

DON'T SIT TOO LONG IN FRONT OF THE TELLY! 

‘Sit less and stand more’ is a good mantra to abide by over Christmas. One study compared women’s metabolic responses to either exercising, standing more or being sedentary. Unsurprisingly, the exercise group saw a 20 per cent improvement. Not far behind was the sitting less group, with a 13 per cent improvement over those who sat for longer. So, getting off the sofa, rather than staying sedentary in front of the TV, makes a difference.

You can write to Clare at [email protected] or Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT .

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