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Your Eyes & Ears May Help With Early Alzheimer's Detection

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) - Could you be showing early signs of Alzheimer's Disease? Your eyes and ears could be the key in early detection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention and the Alzheimer's association say 5.4 million people have Alzheimer's disease and that it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country for those 65 and older.

Dr. James Becker with the University of Pittsburgh's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center joined the "KDKA Morning News" to talk about how your eyes and nose may hold the key to early detection.

It was revealed last week during the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Toronto that our sight and our smelling ability could give us clues if we are showing early signs of Alzheimer's.

Dr. Becker says, "When the disease attacks, although there are certain parts of the brain that is seems to get to first, there are other ways that it can alter our function."

Research in the 1980s at the University of Pennsylvania found during a study that, "individuals that were at risk for Alzheimer's disease...even though they might be able to smell something, they couldn't name it...the connection between the smell and what it represented was broken," said Dr. Becker.

Dr. Becker says the eyes are directly connected to the brain.

"It's really a window into what's happening inside the brain and even the blood vessels in there can be very good clues as to the integrity of the small vessels inside the brain, which can also tell us that perhaps something is going on," Dr. Becker says.

Dr. Becker says the earlier the disease is detected, the sooner doctors can administer medications that are effective at slowing down symptoms and extending quality of life. He adds diet and exercise are also important in slowing down the effects.

There is no cure for Alzheimer's, but Dr. Becker says, "The healthier the brain is, the longer it can hold off the changes that come with Alzheimer's disease."

Listen to the "KDKA Morning News" with Larry Richert and John Shumway weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.

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