Doc: Earlier better for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: My grandmother had very advanced Alzheimer’s disease by the time she died. My mother, who is now 60, is showing frequent signs of memory loss, but she doesn’t want to admit that she has Alzheimer’s.

What should I do?

I’ve understood for a long time that she’s going to suffer the same fate as her mother, but if there’s any action I can take now, I want to know.

D.T.

Dear D.T.: It is up to your mother whether she wants to move forward and try to get a diagnosis. However, I would recommend that she do, as there are several benefits.

First, what she has might not be Alzheimer’s: It may be something that is very treatable. Not everybody with a family history of Alzheimer’s will get the disease.

This may be causing you undue stress. Another reason to seek a diagnosis is that the treatments we have for Alzheimer’s, though limited, are best when begun early. It also might be possible to enter into a trial for new treatments.

Finally, she can make plans for the future, including financial and end-of-life care. All adults should do that anyway, but now is really the time for her to make sure.

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a 65-year-old woman who contracted hepatitis C 40 years ago from a life-saving blood transfusion. I was fortunate to receive effective treatment for hepatitis C, and have been cured. I have no liver damage and am in good health. I would like to be able to donate blood and become an organ donor.

Has there been any research done to see if this is at all possible?

S.C.

Dear S.C.: You cannot donate blood with any history of hepatitis B or C, even if it is thought that you have been cured for many years. The blood banks are extra vigilant to maintain the safety of the blood supply, and are very reluctant to change policies, even if they seem to be outdated.

However, the many people still living with hepatitis C often need organs, especially the liver and kidneys, and people with a history of hepatitis C (active or cured) certainly may donate organs, which are donated to people who have hepatitis C.

We need more organ donors. Over 120,000 people in the U.S. alone are waiting for organs. It’s easy to sign up at organdonor.gov in the United States, or cantransplant.ca in Canada.

Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.