letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: New Dementia Study at UCSF


The need for better tools to provide earlier and more accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is critical. One of the most important breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s Diagnosis is the brain amyloid PET scan to detect one of the hallmark brain changes related to Alzheimer’s – amyloid accumulation – in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia of uncertain cause.

I wish the amyloid PET scan had been available when my family was bewildered as my late mom suffered for four years while her doctor kept saying she ran all the tests and still did not know what was wrong.

In 2007 mom was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but by that time it was too late for her to have input on how to best care for her, which we had to figure out for ourselves.

The Alzheimer’s Association has just begun recruiting for the New IDEAS Imaging Dementia study at UCSF, with special focus on African Americans and Latino participants. These groups have been underrepresented in studies despite being 1 ½ to 2x more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other dementias than older whites.

The goal of the New IDEAS Study is to determine if using a brain amyloid PET scan helps clinicians provide a more accurate diagnosis and make better treatment decisions, which would then inform or change a patient’s treatment plan and improve their quality of life. Medicare beneficiaries who meet clinical criteria for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia are eligible to participate via a referral from a participating dementia specialist, to learn more about the New IDEAS study visit https//www.ideas-study.org/

There is also research being done on a drug that targets beta-amyloid in symptom- free volunteers whose PET scans show high levels of beta-amyloid in the brain. The hope is that this will prevent cognitive decline in people at risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

Until we have a cure, evidence shows that exercise and a healthy diet may help to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Exercise helps with improving strength and balance as well as cardiovascular health especially when combined with a good diet. Having a person remain active in things they enjoy doing can lower depression and help them feel comfortable.

Research is also helping identify ways to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers by reducing dementia-related agitation through techniques including listening to soothing music, light exercise, creating art and pet therapy.

All of the Alzheimer’s research that is being done makes me hopeful that we will see Alzheimer’s first survivor in my lifetime.

Please join me in encouraging Speaker Pelosi to lead in the fight to end Alzheimer’s by increasing funding for Alzheimer’s and dementia research at the National Institute of Health (NIH) by $354 million and by supporting $20 million to implement the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act.

Cindy Clark

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