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Tongue tests for alzheimers

There is an easy new test being talked about that could help to determine if you are at risk of alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

While there is currently no clear cure for these, being pre-warned can help people adjust their lifestyles to help minimise or cope with future problems.

Details of the new test has just been published in the journal Neurology , showing results from a study led by Dr Lenore J Launer of America’s National Institute on Aging.

The research involved testing the saliva of healthy seniors. A group of over 4000 volunteers with an average age in their 70s who were free from dementia was used as the core body for the testing.

Saliva samples were taken in the morning and in the evening and the cortisol levels in the saliva were measured. Depending on the results, the participants were then allocated to one of three groups categorized as high, medium or low.

The group then underwent brain scans with magnetic resonance imaging to determine brain volume, and then finally put through a series of tests to assess memory and thinking skills.

The results are reported to be quite clear cut. Compared with the group who had low cortisol levels, the people with high cortisol levels were found to have brain volumes of around 16 millimeters smaller. The reduction in size was particularly noticeable in the grey matter area of the brain. As further evidence, those with high cortisol levels performed less well on memory and thinking tests than those with lower levels.

The researchers say that because the saliva samples were only taken on a single day, there could be a risk of measurement errors, but nevertheless because of the number of people involved, the results are very informative.

Dr Launer said:

“it is possible that the loss of brain volume that can occur with aging can lead to a lesser ability of the brain to stop the effects of cortisol. This is turn can lead to further loss of brain cells. Understanding these relationships may help us develop strategies to reduce the effects of cortisol on the brain and thinking skills.”

Dr Launer also said that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been found in people with depression, and the theory from this is that cortisol has a toxic effect on the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important role in memory.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone which is involved in many aspects of the body, including controlling the body’s blood sugar levels, acting as an anti-inflammatory, influencing memory formation, controlling salt and water balance and influencing blood pressure.

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