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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Predicting Alzheimer’s may be near

Lauran Neergaard Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A subtle change in a memory-making brain region seems to predict who will get Alzheimer’s disease nine years before symptoms appear, scientists reported Sunday.

The finding is part of research aimed at early detection of the dementia – and, one day, perhaps even preventing it.

Researchers scanned the brains of middle-aged and older people while they were healthy. They discovered that lower energy usage in a part of the brain called the hippocampus correctly signaled who would get Alzheimer’s or a related memory impairment 85 percent of the time.

“We found the earliest predictor,” said lead researcher Lisa Mosconi of New York University School of Medicine. “The hippocampus seems to be the very first region to be affected.”

But the discovery still must be confirmed. And there are serious ethical questions about how soon people should know Alzheimer’s is approaching when nothing yet can be done to forestall the disease. It affects 4.5 million people in the United States and is expected to strike 14 million by 2050 as the population ages.

Among the findings presented Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Association’s first prevention conference:

“ People who drink fruit or vegetable juice at least three times a week seem four times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than non-juice-drinkers, according to a study of 1,800 elderly Japanese-Americans. The theory is that juice contains high levels of polyphenols, compounds that may play a brain-protective role.

“ Less education, gum disease early in life or a stroke were more important than genes in determining who gets dementia, concluded a study of 100 dementia patients with healthy identical twins.

“ Decreasing social activity in old age is a risk factor, a National Institute on Aging study suggests.

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