Important Alzheimer’s update: Research has revealed that a simple blood test could indicate whether or not you have Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, the blood sample could even detect the disease decades before symptoms set in.
On Tuesday, July 27th, this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) was held virtually. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) presented their study on a new blood test that can detect the protein that indicates amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which are the two defining features of Alzheimer’s disease.
Typically, doctors administer a series of memory tests and other behavior evaluations in order to give an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Despite the thoroughness of these tests, some experts say these test results can be inaccurate. In order to know if you are predispositioned to the disease, or before the symptoms begin, there are tests available but they are incredibly expensive, invasive, and often come back inconclusive.
That is why a simple blood test would “be a game-changer in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” says Eric Reiman, M.D., executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and a senior author on the JAMA study.
Earlier diagnosis the better
This vicious disease affects more than 5 million Americans and close to 50 million people globally, and yet, a cure remains undiscovered. For this very reason, health experts put more emphasis on testing as soon as possible. An early diagnosis can provide one of the few chances to tackle the disease.
Blood tests could be ready soon
Oskar Hansson, M.D., a researcher from Sweden’s Lund University and an author on the JAMA study, says it will likely be another two years before the blood test will be available in doctors’ offices.
Both doctors, Hansson and Reiman, see these blood tests being available in primary care doctor’s offices as a screening tool, rather than remaining solely in the hands of specialists. This is good news for the accessibility of Alzheimer’s testing.
“One of the things I’m really excited about is the idea that the blood test can cause physicians to start thinking about this problem, finding out if people have it, and then developing strategies where families can get assistance to navigate through some of these challenging issues to improve their quality of life — even while we’re working to find more effective treatments,” Reiman says.
“I think it’s going to have a profound benefit — and soon. We just have to work through the issues in a thoughtful way.”
Medicare and Alzheimer’s disease
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Medicare covers care planning services for people recently diagnosed with cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease and Dementias. Care planning allows individuals and their caregivers to learn about medical and non-medical treatments, clinical trials and services available in the community, and additional information and support that can contribute to a higher quality of life.
There are also Medicare Special Needs Plans (SNPs) available for individuals with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. SNPs are Medicare Advantage plans that specialize in care and coverage for beneficiaries with dementia.