April 28th, 2010 at 7:46 am
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Alzheimer’s Journal Reports on Quick Test to Spot Early Alzheimer’s

by Carol Bursack

With new awareness of Alzheimer’s can have us feeling as though the disease is lurking around every corner, ready to devour any one of us at any time. It’s easy to get paranoid. We wonder with every memory glitch, is this Alzheimer’s? We wonder even more, if we have Alzheimer’s in the family. We wonder more yet if we have early on-set Alzheimer’s in the family.

Does the fact that we locked our keys in the car twice last month mean we should go through Alzheimer’s testing? Probably not. However, if you notice that you are having episodes of forgetfulness that are worrisome, there’s now a quick, inexpensive and painless test available.

From Ohio State University Medical Center comes news of a pen-and-paper test that could spot Alzheimer’s disease in an early stage. According to the press release, this test is quick, easy and could save billions of dollars in treatment. The exam, which takes about 15 minutes to complete and has been endorsed by the journal, Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders, is called Self-Administered Geocognitive Examination (SAGE).

“With a few pieces of paper and a pen, you can identify that a patient is having a little bit of change in their thinking,” says Douglas Scharre, MD, a neurologist at Ohio State University Medical Center who developed the exam.

The team of Ohio State experts who developed the test, led by Scharre, say SAGE could better identify people who need expensive MRIs and spinal taps and could spare others from undergoing unneeded tests.

Dr. Scharre, who makes the SAGE tests available free of charge to healthcare personnel  at SAGE test, adds that the self-assessment is a practical tool for a primary care office. “They can take the test in the waiting room while waiting for the doctor,” said Scharre.

I find this news exciting, not just because it will help identify people who need more testing to see if Alzheimer’s may be a risk for them. I find it exciting because I think it will put many minds at rest. Since the test is inexpensive and can be given by your family doctor, if you are worried because you seem to be slipping a bit, the test has the potential to help a lot of people sleep better at night. You may find out you are just stressed and need more rest. What a relief!

A personal note: If you are worried, even a little, about Alzheimer’s or other dementia, take that as a clue to get a grip on your overall health, especially those steps that are good for the heart – exercise, diet and cholesterol control. It’s fairly well accepted by medical people that what is good for the heart is good for the brain. You may want to add a bit of brain exercise, as well. How about learning a foreign language or brushing up on your high-school musical instrument? Can’t hurt and might help. I can almost guarantee that exercising your brain will make you more interesting person. What’s to lose? However, if you are doubting your brain, ask your doctor about SAGE. This sounds like a practical step forward.

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