New criteria and guidelines for Alzheimer's

Myles Nienstadt’s 86-year-old mother, Dr. Jean Sullivan, has Alzheimer’s. It was obvious when Sullivan got lost one day while making a house call.

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Until now, Alzheimer’s has only been diagnosed after such major symptoms present themselves. Nationwide, there are 5.8 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s. In the Washington-area alone, there are 80,000.

But new criteria and guidelines published Tuesday suggest that those numbers could jump substantially.

There are now three stages to look at for getting an earlier diagnosis.

The first stage is pre-symptomatic – only biomarkers or changes in the brain indicate the mind-robbing disease is at work.

The second stage would involve mild cognitive impairment – but short of stage 3: Full-blown Alzheimer’s.

It’s hoped having new guidelines could lead to more effective treatment.

For Myles Nienstadt, the news is an investment in his future. His father died of Alzheimer’s too.

“If I'm going to have Alzheimer's, do I have another 10 to 20 to 30 years?” he asked.

A painful question many families are asking these days.

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