Introduction to ALZselftest by Dr. Dougherty

As a neurologist of 25 years, I have specialized in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) for almost fifteen.  I currently follow over 2,000 AD patients in my practice and have personally experienced the immense toll that this disease takes on care givers. It was painful watching my own mother suffer with AD for more than 15 years.

When my mother was diagnosed our medical understanding of AD was very different, far more limited than what we know today. At the time (and still to a large extent today), physicians relied on a basic paper-based test called the Mini-Mental Status Evaluation (MMSE), to diagnose people with AD. The MMSE was developed over 30 years ago and has been shown to be less than 70% effective in diagnosing AD.

As our AD knowledge base expanded I began doing more research and in 2002, created the Self Test, an AD screening test which demonstrated 97% accuracy in clinical trials in differentiating between people with cognitive impairment or AD and otherwise healthy individuals. The success of the Self Test offered a much more effective means of screening for AD, but I was dismayed to know that 60% of people with AD are still going undiagnosed in a primary care setting.

There are many reasons for this, including a lack of sufficient health care coverage, difficulty getting primary care physicians to screen for AD before full onset of the disease, resistance by elders to be screened, and many others. This number is not only unacceptable, it is unnecessary.

In 2005 I began working to adapt the Self Test for use as a computer-based screening and in July of 2008, made it available directly to the public so that any individual with age-related memory concerns can access it from the comfort of their own home. Clinical trials have shown the computer-adapted version of the Self Test to be 98% accurate at distinguishing between impaired and healthy individuals. This means the test is VERY good at uncovering early warning signs. I designed the test to be quick, simple, and user-friendly yet highly effective at revealing potential early warning indicators of cognitive impairment.

Unlike the days when my own mother was diagnosed, we now know that there are hundreds of natural ways to prevent or delay onset or worsening of symptoms of AD. In future posts I’ll write more about these options, and will include articles and resources in our newsletter, which you can sign up for here. The key to best utilizing our medical understanding of this disease is to catch it as early as possible.

Let me say that again: *early detection is the key* to combating AD. The sooner you uncover potential warning signs, the sooner you can put into motion the steps to delay it. If we’d had this information when my mother first became ill, I have no doubt we could have radically improved her quality of life, and significantly reduced the burden on the family.

This is why I have brought you this screening test – to empower you as an individual (or caring family member) to identify potential warning signs before AD symptoms are fully active. Armed with this knowledge you can make much better decisions about your future. You have an “Empty” light on your gas gauge for a reason – it tells you that it’s time to fill up. A “warning light” in this screening test is similar, it tells you it’s time to check in with your physician and pay more attention to your cognitive health.

You’ll be able to print your results for further discussion with your physician, and will also have access to a wide range of tools and information we have compiled to better support you. Knowledge IS power and the reason I have made this test available to you is to give you the power to better care for yourself, both today and in the future. I wish you very good health.

Dr. John Dougherty
Director, Cole Neuroscience Center
Knoxville, TN

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