Alzheimer’s disease: would you take a free predictive test?

Written by Naamah Maundrell

A study published recently in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy Journal has posed a hypothetical question asking if individuals would take an accurate, free predictive test for Alzheimer’s disease. The analyzed results demonstrated that three-quarters of those surveyed aged 65 years and over would take the test.
Meera Sheffrin, lead author from Stanford University School of Medicine (CA, USA), commented:  “Our research confirms that there is a high level of public interest in predictive tests for Alzheimer’s disease. This could be because Alzheimer’s is often in the media and perceived as a particularly devastating disease. This interest, and the potential high demand for predictive testing, should be considered as these tests become available, so recourses are available to help counsel patients and prepare for the future.”

Researchers analyzed results from 875 individuals aged 65 years and older who were part of a Health and Retirement Study. When individuals were asked what they would do if they were told they would definitely develop Alzheimer’s disease, 87% indicated they would discuss health plans with family and 81% of individuals would make future care plans.

The question responses were analyzed by demographics and self-reported characteristics. Sheffrin explained: “We found that interest in a predictive test for Alzheimer’s disease testing was similar amongst the participants regardless of whether or not they perceived themselves as being at high or low risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Unexpectedly, interest did not vary between individuals who were healthy and those suffering from many medical conditions, or by sex, race, functional status or perceived memory.”

Looking forward, the authors suggest that a predictive test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease would be beneficial in allowing patients and families to prepare and make necessary arrangements.

Sources: Sheffrin M, Cenzer IS, Steinman MA. Desire for predictive testing for Alzheimer’s disease and impact on advance care planning: a cross-sectional study. Alzheimer’s Res. Ther. doi:10.1186/s13195-016-0223-9 (2016) (Epub ahead of print);