Imaging Plays an Important Role in the Early Detection of Alzheimer’s
- Posted on: Aug 30 2018
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Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent type of dementia. Research has determined that people who develop this condition accumulate two particular proteins in their brain: plaques (amyloid-beta) and tangles (tau). As these proteins increase, brain cells die, progressively affecting cognitive ability.
Historically, the medical profession has relied heavily on neuropsychological symptoms to diagnose Alzheimer’s. The problem with this approach is that symptoms do not occur until the disease has already caused some degree of irreparable brain damage. Modern medicine operates from the objective of preventing unnecessary damage by recognizing the signs of Alzheimer’s as early as possible. One way this can happen is with neuroimaging assessment.
Neuroimaging has been widely used to observe nonspecific characteristics such as cerebral atrophy. However, atrophy is also a later-stage symptom we don’t want to wait to for. In recent years, a variety of imaging modalities have been studied for accuracy in identifying functional, structural, and molecular anomalies that may suggest the onset of Alzheimer’s. CT (CAT scans), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) have been useful in observing characteristic changes in the brain before a patient becomes symptomatic for cognitive decline.
- Structural imaging such as CT or MRI discerns the shape, volume, and position of brain tissue.
- Functional imaging such as fMRI or PET scans observes the physical wellness of cells in various regions of the brain, showing how well they utilize oxygen and sugar.
- Molecular imaging such as fMRI or PET can detect chemical and cellular changes that characterize diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Can You Offset the Factors of Alzheimer’s?
Research has strongly suggested that genetic code determines only 1% of Alzheimer’s cases. In the other 99% of cases, there are several contributing factors to the buildup of proteins in the brain, including lifestyle. Experts suggest:
- The Mediterranean diet. This diet is rich in healthy fats from dairy, eggs, nuts, fish, olive oil, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Studies suggest that the brain benefits even with partial adherence to this diet.
- When we get quality sleep, there is far less amyloid buildup in the brain.
- Just 30 minutes, four days a week has demonstrated positive effects on brain health, particularly as it relates to Alzheimer’s progression.
It is promising to see the progress that has been made in the detection and prevention or management of Alzheimer’s. To learn more about the imaging used to observe the biomarkers of this disease, contact our Humble or Houston office.