Simple Blood Test May Identify Women at Risk of Alzheimer’s

Middle-aged women with high levels of a specific amino acid (homocysteine) in their blood are twice as likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease many years later, according to a recent thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. This discovery could lead to a new and simple way of determining who is at risk long before there are any signs of the illness. The thesis is based on the Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg, which was started at the end of the 1960s when almost 1,500 women between the ages of 38 and 60 were examined, asked questions about their health, and had blood samples taken. Nearly all of the samples have now been analyzed and compared with information on who went on to suffer from Alzheimer's and dementia much later. "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 per cent higher," said Dr. Dimitri Zylberstein, author of the thesis. Historically, elevated homocysteine levels have been related to certain vitamin deficiencies (B12 and folate). Today we know that high homocysteine levels might be present even with perfectly normal vitamin status. "These days we in our clinical practice use homocysteine analyses mainly for assessment of vitamin status. However, our results mean that we could use the very same analysis for assessment of an individual's risk profile for dementia development. This opens the possibility for future preventive treatment at a very early stage," said Dr. Zylberstein. [Press release]
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