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Posts tagged: Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s: do you want to know?

There's great buzz in Alzheimer's circles about a new brain scan technology that can detect  beta-amyloid (protein) plaques, which build up in the brain like toxic waste when you have Alzheimer's.

Before now, the plaques could be confirmed only upon autopsy. The scan isn't widely available, and it's expensive, but it still begs the question: If you had the tell-tale signs of Alzheimer's, would you want to know, since there is no cure and no treatment that does much?

Another twist: Research has shown that some people (upon autopsy) had horrible plaques but never lost their memory. Others had horrible dementia and no plaques.

(S-R archive photo of Ronald Reagan, who died of Alzheimer's) 

Til death (or illness?) do us part

Christian televangelist Pat Robertson has infuriated many of his viewers with his comment that a person is within his/her moral right to divorce a spouse who has Alzheimer's disease. The extremely conservative pastor defended his stance by saying that Alzheimer's disease “is a kind of death.”

 Have you had a conversation with your spouse…”Honey, if I am diagnosed with dementia, I would want you to…”? 

 Certainly Robertson's comments are a good conversation starter.

(Spokesman Review archive photo of Nancy Reagan with husband former president Ronald Reagan, who died of Alzheimer's in 2004)

Losing your mind: Do you want to know?

Spinal fluid tests can now “see” what are possible telltale signs of impending Alzheimer's disease. In a Reuters story about a report in the journal Neurology, the writer explained:

Current spinal fluid tests for Alzheimer's look for an imbalance in two proteins: beta amyloid, which forms sticky plaques in the brain, and tau, which is seen as a marker of brain cell damage. People with Alzheimer's tend to have lower levels of beta amyloid and higher levels of tau protein in their spinal fluid, and doctors often test for this to confirm the dementia is caused by Alzheimer's.

But would you want to know?

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at

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