For lots of us, developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is one of our biggest fears as we age. It’s a legitimate concern—5.5 million Americans over age 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institute on Aging, and those numbers are expected to skyrocket unless researchers discover better ways to prevent the disease.
That’s where you can help. The Alzheimer’s prevention trials web study is looking to enroll 200,000 healthy people age 50 and up to help boost enrollment in Alzheimer’s clinical trials.
Researchers believe that targeting Alzheimer’s disease early, before people notice symptoms, is key to delaying its progress. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that changes in the brain can begin 20 years before symptoms appear. And women are hit especially hard by the disease—two-thirds of people in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s disease are women, according to the association.
Watching for signs of decline
If you decide to join the research project, you’ll take online memory tests every three months. Each test takes about 20 minutes, and you’ll see how you score.
If your test results show declines in your memory or thinking over time, you could be offered brain scans, blood tests, additional memory testing, or further evaluation at a clinic. And if you qualify, you might be able to enroll in an Alzheimer’s prevention trial.
You can participate in the study no matter where you live, though if you are selected for a research trial you’ll need to visit a clinic in the U.S. If you’re already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you don’t qualify to enroll in the study.
The study is led by Dr. Paul Aisen of the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute (ATRI) of the University of Southern California, Dr. Reisa Sperling of Harvard Medical School and Dr. Jeffrey Cummings of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.
Other ways to protect your brain
Whether or not you enroll in the study, there are things you can do to help keep your brain healthy as you age. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends:
- Exercising regularly
- Continuing your education
- Not smoking
- Controlling high blood pressure
- Wearing a seatbelt and/or helmet when driving or riding a bike
- Following a healthy diet like the Mediterranean or MIND diet
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Taking care of your mental health
- Staying socially engaged
- Challenging your brain with things like puzzles and language learning
- Combining these habits to bring bigger brain health benefits