Paula Spencer Scott, senior editor, writes extensively about health and caregiving. A 2011 Met Life Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow, she helped care for both...
Deciding whether to be tested for Alzheimer's is an individual decision, and one that your doctor can help you make. Here are some things to consider:
First, if you Diagnosis is made by evaluating symptoms and eliminating other possibilities. There are two types of testing: genetic tests and cognitive (thinking) tests. Genetic tests would tell you if you carry a particular gene variation that is associated with Alzheimer's. However, this genetic link accounts for only a small percentage of cases of the disease. More commonly associated with the possibility of developing dementia are lifestyle issues such as being overweight, smoking, having diabetes or cardiovascular problems, or a history of brain injury. A doctor or genetic counselor could advise you on the pros and cons of having testing done if you have a significant family history of Alzheiemr's and reason to worry about the gene.
simply were worrying about the possibility of Alzheimer's because your mother had it, this alone isn't necessarily reason to have testing. There isn't a single test.
Cognitive tests are appropriate for someone who is showing possible symptoms such as memory loss or confusional thinking. If you feel you are having these symptoms, talking to your doctor is a great idea. He or she can work to pinpoint their actual cause -- things like stress, depression, and medications can cause symptoms that seem like Alzheimer's. Many people in midlife worry about memory loss but do not actually have Alzheimer's or anything wrong at all. Confirming this sets a mind at ease. If it does seem to be dementia, then early diagnosis is a useful gift of time that can be used to possibly slow the disease progress with medication and other lifestyle changes, and to take steps to prepare for a comfortable later life.
The prospect of what you might find out can be unnerving, but taking some kind of action is almost always better than doing nothing and worrying.