Is it useful to know our predisposition to diseases or illness patterns? In Chinese medicine the patterns of illness, even the typing of personalities, can lead to an effective preventive herbal and acupuncture program that is individualized to each person’s unique combination of symptoms and imbalance. A holistic approach to health should include prevention of predispositions. If a close family member had heart disease or breast cancer, then it is wise to closely monitor one’s health for these problems, look for genetic markers of cancer, or watch for signs of cardiovascular inflammation (through tests for homocysteine and C-reactive protein) and begin a preventive program targeted to these problems. Programs that strengthen the immune system and antioxidant supplements will help prevent cancer. Folic acid, antioxidants, and omega-3 fats will help prevent heart disease. We can target these patterns with individualized plans of prevention.
A new test shows promise of predicting Alzheimer’s disease almost a decade before symptoms of the disease begin. Researchers have developed a brain scan-based computer program that quickly and accurately measures metabolic activity in a key region of the brain (hippocampus) affected in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Applying the program, they demonstrated that reductions in brain metabolism in healthy individuals were associated with the later development of the memory robbing disease. The hippocampus, a sea-horse shaped area of the brain associated with memory and learning, diminishes in size as Alzheimer’s disease progresses from mild cognitive impairment to full-blown dementia.
Here is what the primary researcher, Mony de Leon, said about the new test. “Right now, we can show with great accuracy who will develop Alzheimer’s nine years in advance of symptoms, and our projections suggest we might be able to take that out as far as 15 years.”
“Our basic results will need to be replicated in other studies and expanded to include PET data from diverse patient groups,” adds Dr. De Leon. “But we’re confident this is a strong beginning, demonstrating accurate detection of early Alzheimer’s disease. Now we have a better tool to examine disease progression, and we anticipate this might open some doors to prevention treatment strategies.”
I am not suggesting that everyone run out to get a computer-assisted PET scan of their brains, but this type of research does show that modern diagnostic tools can be used for early detection of subtle changes that can lead to prevention plans. Anyone with a family history of serious disease processes, especially those that are known to have a genetic component (diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease, Alzheimer’s) would benefit from consulting a qualified holistic health care provider to develop an individualized prevention strategy. The number of nutritional supplements available to us can be a confusing morass of information overload. However, experts in nutrition and holistic practice can tailor a program to your needs that could just save your life.
The results of the study were reported by researcher Lisa Mosconi (New York University School of Medicine) at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia.
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