September 5, 2023

Alzheimer’s Disease: Know the Factors, Recognize Opportunities to Reduce Risk

World Alzheimer’s Month and Healthy Aging Month – September 2023

SYNAPS Dx (SDx) is taking this opportunity to raise awareness about the many risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and the preventative steps needed for risk reduction.

The 2023 theme of World Alzheimer’s Month, ‘Never too early, never too late,’ highlights the importance of taking steps when patients begin experiencing symptoms of cognitive decline. In a recent study, 80% of people surveyed between the ages of 65 and 80 indicated that they did not get a cognitive assessment from their clinicians and 96% indicated that they would change behaviors to protect brain health. This survey reinforces the need for patients and providers to identify and monitor early cognitive decline and develop care plans that can slow or even halt the rate of decline, especially for those who show even the mildest of symptoms.

The Connection: Cognitive and Physical Health

Mental and physical health are important components of living independently for aging adults. While there is a common misconception that symptoms of dementia are a natural aspect of the aging process, the effects of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), dementia and AD are not normal signs of aging.

The good news is studies show that about 40% of dementia cases can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes that address modifiable risk factors, including physical activity.

Several studies show that physical activity can slow the development of MCI, the early stage of cognitive decline or memory loss. For example, the EXERT study demonstrated that older adults who exercised regularly throughout an 18-month period had the same results on a cognitive assessment as they did in the beginning of the study, indicating physical activity stalled the progression of MCI. Moreover, the benefit was seen irrespective of the level of physical exertion. People performing simple seated exercises with stretching bands had similar benefits to those able to walk on a treadmill.

Similarly, the Systematic Multi-Domain Alzheimer’s Risk Reduction Trial (SMARRT) study found that reducing risk factors such as physical inactivity, smoking, depression, mid-life hypertension, mid-life obesity and diabetes could also reduce the prevalence of AD in the U.S.

In addition to these lifestyle approaches, simple actions like treating hearing loss may also be a safe way to lower the risk of dementia in vulnerable populations, with studies showing that hearing aids reduced the rate of cognitive decline in older adults at higher risk of dementia by almost 50% over a three-year period.

Concerning Symptoms

A growing number of aging adults led experts to predict there will be 13 million people with AD by 2050.

Symptoms of dementia can be difficult to differentiate from typical age-related behavior changes and other common and potentially curable conditions. An early diagnosis of AD can help to alleviate worry for older Americans and families and get them on the optimal AD therapeutic journey earlier in the disease trajectory.  

Unfortunately, physicians have found it difficult to diagnose AD, with 50% to 70% of symptomatic AD patients not correctly diagnosed in primary care and 25% to 30% misdiagnosed in specialized memory clinics. Additionally, 1/3 of older adults reported delaying care in 2021, while 1/5 of this population experienced negative impacts from delayed care. Without an accurate AD diagnosis, patients do not have access to the right treatment in a timely manner.

SDx points to the DISCERN™ test, the first autopsy-validated, highly accurate, minimally invasive test supporting a clinician’s definitive diagnosis of AD versus other forms of dementia, even in people recently diagnosed with dementia. DISCERN provides an accurate diagnosis even in the early stages of AD, providing physicians and patients with informed decision-making that enables appropriate treatment while eliminating any treatment delay.

New AD Drugs on the Rise

With the safety issues associated with the emergence of risky Alzheimer’s disease drugs, an early and accurate AD diagnosis is critical. Studies have shown that 37% of participants treated with donanemab, for example, experienced brain swelling and bleeding known as ARIA.

Other AD tests do not adequately measure dementia-related brain changes in living people. DISCERN is an easily administered skin biopsy that helps patients without AD avoid taking drugs like Leqembi and donanemab that have serious safety risks – as well expensive price tags.

DISCERN Explained

DISCERN is a 3mm skin punch biopsy and has over 95% sensitivity and specificity, combining three independently accurate biomarkers:

  • Morphometric Imaging to measure fibroblasts’ ability to form networks
  • Protein Kinase C ε to measure synaptic growth
  • AD-Index to measure phosphorylation of Erk1 and Erk2 in response to bradykinin.

DISCERN is recognized as the world’s only Gold Standard Validated benchmark to offer such clinical insight and is the first AD test of its kind to be paid for by Medicare. The autopsy-validated accuracy from a simple procedure performed in a clinicians office, combined with this positive economic modeling data, position DISCERN as a key solution to reduce the economic burden of AD across the healthcare system and inform an early and accurate diagnosis of AD, the first step in assessing patients for therapeutic intervention.

To learn more about DISCERN, visit: