Saturday, October 27, 2007

Do I want to know if I'm likely to get Alzheimer's?

Is it good news that scientists have developed a blood test that could reveal which patients with mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop Alzheimer's disease? I’m still lucid enough to understand it’s only useful if it leads to earlier, effective treatment, and not just earlier worrying. Alzheimer's is a progressive, fatal brain disease that affects almost one in eight individuals over the age of 65. I’m 65 and none of my friends has it, which makes me want to make a new friend with Alzheimer's to improve my odds.

The new test allowed the testers to predict, with 81% accuracy, which of the mildly ditzy people (my term, not theirs) would ultimately develop Alzheimer's on average around 30 months before clinical diagnosis. They're cautioning us not to get excited about the findings, but nobody will have to pull me down from the rafters. Nothing about Alzheimer's excites me.

They – and I’m not sure which they this is – recommend learning a new language and doing crossword puzzles to keep your brain agile. But they don’t specify if it’s enough to do the one in New York Magazine or do you have to finish the one in London's Times? The disparity is as great as the difficulty for an English-speaking person to learn Spanish vs. Thai.

I'm not sure how to react to this though seeing my husband on the couch finishing the puzzle from tomorrow's New York Times leaves nothing for me but to rush out to Berlitz.

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