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59% of Older People Never Test for This Fatal Disease

Learning that you have Alzheimer’s disease is life-altering news. Although the diagnosis is grim, those who are aware that they have the illness can begin to plan for the difficult final stage of their lives.

In fact, 80% of adults ages 65 to 80 believe that there is value to taking tests that might reveal the early stages of cognitive decline, according to the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging.

And yet, the exact same percentage of folks — 80% — acknowledge that they have not had a cognitive test in the past year that might reveal early signs of dementia. And 59% have never had such a test.

Cognitive screening tests can reveal early signs of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. And a blood test can help find biomarkers of the proteins tau and amyloid in the brain, which indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s.

In a summary of the findings, J. Scott Roberts, the associate director of the poll, says:

“As many as half of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia don’t receive a formal diagnosis, even when they have clear symptoms. As more diagnostic and treatment options become available, it’s important to understand how older adults view them and how best to support those who undergo testing and receive results.”

The group of 1,242 survey respondents overwhelmingly said that an early diagnosis of cognitive decline would cause them to take steps to protect their brain health (96%) and adjust their financial and health care planning (75%).

The low participation rate in cognitive and blood testing may be largely a result of the fear of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. About 60% of adults acknowledge that they would feel distress if they received a positive result.

However, a lack of knowledge about testing options also may help explain why so few seniors are being tested. Just 17% of survey respondents were aware that blood tests are available for conditions like Alzheimer’s.

Those who are 65 or older have access to cognitive testing. Medicare covers brief cognitive tests during an annual wellness visit available to everyone enrolled in the government health insurance program.

If you are tested and show signs of cognitive decline, you will be eligible for more comprehensive testing.

For more dementia news, check out “This Simple Medical Device May Cut Dementia Risk in Half.”

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