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June 29, 2015

Study: Signs of Alzheimer's may begin about 20 years before symptoms

Subjects were evaluated every three years for 18 years

The results of a recently published study may offer a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s disease prevention and early treatment.

Led by Kumar Rajan, an associate professor of internal medicine at Rush University Medical Center, the study, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, followed 2,125 individuals with an average age of 73 and without dementia for a period of 18 years.

Every three years, the study participants underwent mental skills tests, with the results compared over time. 

Those who went on to receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis showed lower scores on their tests throughout the study period. 

In fact, their scores steadily declined with each test, Time magazine reports. 

For each unit that the scores dropped on the cognitive tests, the risk of future Alzheimer’s increased by 85 percent.

Previous studies have suggested the disease begins about 10 years before people first notice signs of cognitive decline. 

In the very least, the new data shows there is a longer window of time to attempt to slow down or reverse the condition through treatment.

According to Time magazine, Rajan hopes to build upon the findings by evaluating whether brain-stimulating activities like crossword puzzles or learning a new language and social interactions can improve the test scores and, in turn, slow the time to diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Read the full study here.

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