New Guidelines for Diagnosisng Alzheimer's Disease

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

As we write here often, late diagnosis is the key barrier to better treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

We routinely identify the disease after about 7 years of symptoms when irreversible brain damage has already occurred. Earlier intervention, even with today's modestly effective drugs, would be more beneficial if started earlier and combined with improved diet, regular physical exercise, and careful management of other medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

One reason we have historically been slow to diagnose Alzheimer's is that the guidelines for making such a diagnosis included "dementia". That is to say, until the disease process has diminished a person's thinking capacity to a point where they can np longer function independently, they don't yet have Alzheimer's disease.

The proposed changes to the guidelines suggest that the disease is indeed present, and should indeed be treated, prior to the patient becoming so mentally debilitated. This makes great sense and I see the proposed changes as a winning strategy in the battle against this terrible illness.

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