Phoenix researchers delve into early symptoms of Alzheimer’s
PHOENIX– Individuals with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease could experience changes in memory performance as early as their twenties, according to a Phoenix- based research group.
On average, indicators of the disease appear around age 60, but research published this week by the Translational Genomics Research Institute suggests that indicators could appear up to four decades sooner than previously believed.
“This study really suggests that for people who are at elevated risks for Alzheimer’s disease, there may be changes occurring in their brains even longer before we expected before,” Matt Huentelman, professor of neurogenomics at TGen, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disorder that presents clinically as deficits in memory and thinking. There are an estimated 5 million Americans living with the disease. By 2050, that number is expected to almost triple to 14 million.
TGen gathered data for their research from MindCrowd, an online project that provides researchers with information about how people not suffering from the disease perform at different ages. Since the project began in 2013, more than 115,000 participants from 150 nations, including the United States, have participated. For this study, TGen utilized the memory test results from nearly 60,000 individuals.
The study noted that the most susceptible individuals were men with lower educational attainment, diabetes, and carriers of a common genetic change in APOE, a gene long associated with Alzheimer’s disease .
“The disease is progressive, and it’s a bit surprising that we can see these differences, so we don’t know for sure what’s happening,” Huentelman said. “It’s important to note that these differences between these two groups that we studied, they’re not differences that would affect the daily living of the individuals.”
Huentelman also noted that the memory differences of an individual that were studied were very subtle and not cases that would warrant a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
“It should worry you when it starts to affect your ability to live the normal daily life that you’re accustomed to,” Huentelman said.
As of now, there are no curative treatments or long-term effective medications to treat Alzheimer’s disease, but Huentelman said that previous research has demonstrated that a healthy brain comes from a healthy lifestyle, including diet, exercise and social life.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood and Bob McClay contributed to this report.