Alzheimer’s Diagnostic Tests Inch Forward, but Treatments Are Still Lacking

Kathy Stack’s memory loss began with the little things: losing her wallet, taking a wrong turn, forgetting someone’s name. In 2013 at the age of 68, she visited her neurologist, who sent her to a memory loss specialist. He told her she had a 50–50 chance of developing full-blown Alzheimer’s disease within five years.

Two years later, Stack, who was the first female department director of community services for Saint Paul, Minn., has made lifestyle changes such as working out regularly and doing daily brain exercises to stave off the disease. She is prepared for what the next stages of Alzheimer’s may bring, but says she has noticed her symptoms worsening.

More than five million people in the U.S. currently have Alzheimer’s, and that number is increasing with the aging population. Clinical diagnoses from specialists can be accurate up to 90 percent of the time but currently the only way to confirm that an individual has the disease is to examine the brain after death. Researchers are working to develop tests that diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier and more reliably. But with limited treatment options available, some experts worry that better tests may do more harm than good. …

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