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The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) will hold its seventh annual National Memory Screening Day on Tuesday, November 17, to raise awareness about the impact memory tests have had on the early detection of potentially harmful health conditions.
In observance of the event, more than 2,000 sites across the U.S. will offer free, confidential memory testing, supplemented by educational materials. The five-minute screening sessions are conducted face-to-face with qualified healthcare professionals and consist of a series of questions and tasks.
Visiting Angels, a national provider of senior care, estimates that 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease - a condition which causes memory loss and a reduction of other cognitive functions.
"It's an honor and a pleasure to be able to service these people," said Sandra Dougherty, who works in the Canton, Ohio, office of Visiting Angels. "They are so vital and full of life. I feel privileged to be able to help someone keep their loved one at home, where they really want to be."
AFA encourages those with below-normal scores on memory tests to undergo full neurological exams for a diagnosis. The group also engages patients suffering from Alzheimer's in activities such as craft-making, exercise and lunch dates.
Clinical testing may identify risk factors
Clinical studies have identified specific risk factors in developing Alzheimer's disease, allowing physicians to conduct precise screenings aimed at diagnosing the condition.
According to the AFA, age is the greatest risk factor, as the incidence of the disease doubles every five years between the ages of 65 and 95.
Furthermore, a team of Swedish researchers recently determined that
high levels of a certain amino acid in middle-age women point to a high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. As part of the study, the doctors administered the clinical tests to 1,500 women between the ages of 38 and 60 and compared the results to records that indicated which women developed the condition in later years.
"Alzheimer's disease was more than twice as common among the women with the highest levels of homocysteine than among those with the lowest, and the risk for any kind of dementia was 70 percent higher," said Dr Dimitri Zylberstein, who conducted the research.
Another study by U.S., Canadian and British researchers targeted high protein diets as a possible exacerbating factor in the development of Alzheimer's. A study on groups of mice, which administered four different types of diets, found that mice fed more protein had brains that were five percent lighter than all others.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer's disease is incurable, but support and affection from loved ones can improve the quality of life for people who suffer from the condition.
Alzheimer's: Treatments on the verge
Though no cure currently exists, scientists have been busy experimenting with treatments to help slow the onset of Alzheimer's disease and curb it symptoms.
In the past, scientists have encapsulated medications like insulin into small structures called liposomes, which can improve absorption of the chemicals by the body. Researchers are also testing whether samples of the curry spice curcumin, when encapsulated in liposomes, are more effectively transferred into the bloodstreams of laboratory rats.
The study, which appears in the American Cancer Society's bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, notes that curcumin, an ingredient in yellow curry and the spice turmeric, is known to act as a powerful antioxidant. Because of this property, researchers believe the spice may be effectively used to treat Alzheimer's disease.
In a positive development, initial reports found that the capsules more than quadrupled absorption of the substance and boosted antioxidant levels in the blood.
According to The Arbor Company, a service that provides housing and care to seniors, an American is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease every 70 seconds.
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