ALZHEIMER'S disease can be diagnosed at least 20 years before the onset of symptoms by using state-of-the-art brain imaging.
That's what the head of research at the Australian Alzheimer's Research Foundation, professor Ralph Martins, told the Koorda branch of the Country Women's Association (CWA) of WA at the Alzheimer's Research and Information Day on June 19.
Professor Martins gave an overview of the latest findings on the disease, with the audience given the opportunity to ask questions.
He said the work of his team, in partnership with CSIRO and collaborators in Melbourne, Victoria, had led to the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's, disease which he said was a key to successful treatment.
"To date all drug treatments have failed, mainly because the brain was too severely damaged because the diagnosis was too late," professor Martins said.
"But brain imaging has revolutionised the way clinical trials are undertaken for the development of effective treatments.
"While this finding is a major advance, because of the expense of brain imaging (at around $3000 per scan), my team is focusing on developing blood and eye tests for early diagnosis, which can be relatively cheap ($100 or less), allowing access to the wider community."
The Australian Alzheimer's Research Foundation is undertaking a testosterone clinical trial to treat men at high risk, before the onset of symptoms, and professor Martins is conducting a coconut oil trial at Macquarie University, New South Wales.
"The brain is actually starving several years before the onset of clinical Alzheimer's, as it loses its ability to use glucose, which is normally the brains major resource of fuel," he said.
"So my team is undertaking a coconut oil trial to feed the brain."
Research has also shown genetic risk factors can contribute to developing Alzheimer's, in particular a major genetic risk factor called APOE4, which accounts for half the people diagnosed.
"However, unlike the rare genes that cause Alzheimer's, this genetic risk factor requires the involvement of other risk factors for Alzheimer's to happen which include being sedentary, poor diet and sleep, high blood pressure and excess alcohol consumption," professor Martin said.
He said the main pillars for prevention of the disease included adhering to the Mediterranean diet, regular exercise, quality sleep for seven to eight hours, social engagement, mental stimulation and stress management.
Held at the Koorda Recreation Ground, more than 100 people attended the luncheon, which included a silent auction of old farm memorabilia and a raffle that collectively raised more than $5000.
Items sold in the silent auction, called 'Thanks for the memory', included old plough discs, old distilled water bottles and a cement mixer.
Other prizes donated to the raffle included art, accommodation in Thailand and six tickets for a luncheon at Parliament House.
Koorda CWA branch co-ordinator, Lesley McNee, with four generations of her family affected by Alzheimer's, said people came from far and wide to attend the event.
"Lots of interesting people came to the lunch," Ms McNee said.
"My sister-in-law brought in a bus load of 20 people from Merredin, Westonia and Burracoppin and there were people who travelled from Perth and New Norcia."
"Everyone was very interested in professor Martin's presentation and people said it was the best thing they'd been to in years - professor Martin was marvellous and very informative.
"The day wouldn't have been a success without the help of, not only our Koorda branch members, but also other volunteers who put their hand up to help."
The CWA of WA selected the Alzheimer's Foundation of Australia as its chosen charity for 2018/2019 and held various fundraising events for the cause.
"Each branch is doing it's own fundraising and we will hand a cheque to professor Martin at the opening night of our upcoming CWA State Conference," Ms McNee said.
Professor Martin is looking for male volunteers with low testosterone who are interested in participating in the Australian Alzheimer's Research Foundation testosterone clinical trial.
"If there is sufficient interest in Koorda, the team will come to Koorda to assess potential volunteers," he said.
- You can donate to the Australian Alzheimer's Research Foundation online at alzheimers.com.au/support/donate