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Health Check: Alzheimer's disease prevention trial

What if you could prevent the progression of Alzheimer's disease? (WJAR)

If you could find out you were at risk for the memory robbing disease Alzheimer's would you want to know?

There is a way to find out, by taking part in Alzheimer's prevention trials currently going on in the R.I. area.

Elaine and Raymond Theriault have been married for 51 years. Raymond, an army veteran, Elaine, a retired nurse have two kids and two grandkids. Both are looking forward to many more years together and memories. And that's why they're here at Butler Hospital's Memory and Aging Program.

"Everytime I forgot something, I was sure I was on the path," said Elaine.

On the path to Alzheimer's Disease, like her mother, aunts and uncles, she said.

Even her husband, with no family history, was concerned.

"I noticed that both of us were slipping," he said.

That’s why they enrolled in two separate Alzheimer's prevention trials. Both underwent memory testing. They passed.

"And then I had to go have a PET scan done," said Elaine.

Dr. Stephen Salloway said what they’re looking in these pet scans of the brain are a buildup of a protein known as amyloid plaques. He said when you can see a lot of color—red and yellow—that indicates a buildup of amyloid, a hallmark of this disease. In those who pass the memory test who have this buildup, it means they’re at risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

"I just anticipated that it was going to be positive," said Elaine.

Turned out Elaine had no plaque buildup which meant she flunked. In this case, a good thing.

Raymond is now scheduled for his pet scan. And he can't help ask the question many do.

"Suppose I do? What do I do then?"

"Learning more about your risk is a very emotional and a personal decision," said Salloway. "And a lot of people, as Elaine and Ray will tell you, have mixed feelings about it."

But, there are a couple of things he says you should know.

"It's more information about your health and the other is that we're testing treatments to slow it down."

He says there are very promising treatments for those at risk.

In order to make a difference in the lives of people with Alzheimer's and those at risk for the disease, they need people to enroll in these prevention trials, like the Theriault’s. Family history or not. There are five Alzheimer’s prevention trials going at Butler Hospital currently and more to come.

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