Let's say you could find out that dementia is coming to get you – in 10 or 20 years time- would you want to know? May not be a moot point for too much longer with a new Aussie developed blood test about to go in for final testing. (Science nerds check out the study published in the journal Nature HERE.
It seems that the brain sheds a little protein called microRNA directly into the blood stream which can be found in a blood test. This microRNA (you're right- it's a cousin of DNA) is shed by the brain for up to two decades before the dementia sets in. The preliminary trial from Melbourne University found it could be up to 91.4% accurate at picking those who are destined to be hit with Alzheimer’s.
So what would you do with that info? Well for a start a negative test would reassure all of us stressed out space cadets who start forgetting to attach our heads in the morning that this is merely stress or being tired as opposed to imminent dementia! Phew!!
And if the news was grim? Here are my top tips for someone who knows they’ve got a future with dementia;
- Kick all your nasty habits. Not just cigarettes and excess booze (one a drink a day seems to be protective! More stacks the odds against you...) but sugary foods and being a couch potato. Now is the time to set up the chemical environment to prolong the life of your precious brain cells
- Get checked regularly. At the earliest signs of dementia we do have drugs that can freeze time. They don’t work for everyone and they can’t actually reverse dementia but the earlier you get onto them the better your prognosis. At least you’ll be actively looking out for dementia.
- Challenge your brain. Learn a language, start reading poetry, start walking backwards and chat to your GP about some of the commercial ‘brain exercises’ out there. A busy well used brain lasts longer!
- Get social. Being socially connected is a protection against dementia but will also provide you and your family with much needed support when the going does get tough.
- Get organized. Don’t delay getting your affairs like wills and financial structures sorted while your brain is working at tip top capacity.
Bring on this test I say. Another bit of Aussie ingenuity that is a win-win for all of us!!