Yesterday the National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer’s Association released much needed and long overdue updates for diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Chief among the revised guidelines are three distinct disease stages:
1- Preclinical AD: no symptoms, but some changes in brain biomarkers.
2- Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) due to AD: measurable memory impairment, but little or no impact on daily life.
3- Dementia due to AD: major cognitive impairment, significant impact on daily life.
The updated criteria, along with Medicare guidelines on screening for cognitive impairment, are steps in the right direction to prepare the US health care system for the 70+ Million people turning 65 over the next two decades.
Routine cognitive health screening in the doctor’s office will be one of the best ways to catch early signs of memory impairment that can lead to AD. The conversion rate from MCI to Alzheimer’s is 10%-20% per year in many cases, so early detection will offer many opportunities to improve safety and quality of life for people living with the early stages of AD.