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Alzheimer’s blood test achieves faster diagnoses, high accuracy at Mayo Clinic

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Alzheimer’s blood test achieves faster diagnoses, high accuracy at Mayo Clinic

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With nearly seven million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease — and 13 million projected to have the illness by 2050 — early diagnosis and treatment are more urgent than ever.

To help address this, Mayo Clinic has announced a new, non-invasive blood test that detects a protein in the brain that signals Alzheimer’s.

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The goal, doctors say, is for this test to offer a convenient, less invasive alternative to traditional diagnostic methods.

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Fox News Digital spoke to Dr. Alicia Algeciras-Schimnich, professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at Mayo Clinic Rochester in Minnesota, about the new test and what it means for Alzheimer’s patients and their families.

“This is the first Alzheimer’s disease blood test offered at Mayo Clinic Laboratories,” said Algeciras-Schimnich, who led the clinical validation study to gauge how well the test performed.

A new, non-invasive blood test detects a protein in the brain that signals Alzheimer’s, Mayo Clinic (not pictured) announced. (iStock)

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“While there are other commercial blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease, the uniqueness of our test is its high accuracy rate.”

How does it work?

One of the hallmark features in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of plaque containing a protein known as beta amyloid.  

“The pTau217 assay assesses the accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain by measuring the amount of phosphorylated Tau 217 (p-Tau217) in the test sample,” said Algeciras-Schimnich.

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Accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain can also be evaluated by imaging techniques, such as PET scans or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers, the doctor noted — but those methods have some limitations. 

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“The PET scan to evaluate beta amyloid is expensive and not a widely available technology,” said Algeciras-Schimnich. 

Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit medical practice and medical research group based in Rochester, Minnesota. Mayo Clinic has announced a new, non-invasive blood test to help determine if patients have Alzheimer’s. (iStock)

“And the CSF collection requires an invasive technique to remove spinal fluid, so it is also not widely used.”

The Alzheimer’s disease blood biomarkers serve as a non-invasive tool that can improve access for patients who need answers, she said.

How accurate is it?

In patients with symptoms of cognitive decline, the blood test has a sensitivity of 92% and a specificity of 96%. 

“Sensitivity measures the ability of the test to correctly identify patients with the disease, while specificity measures the ability of the test to correctly identify those without the disease,” Algeciras-Schimnich explained.

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“A blood-based test not only offers convenience, but could help transform Alzheimer’s disease research.”

Patients who take the test are classified as positive or negative for the presence of the accumulation of beta amyloid. 

“In a small number of patients, the test will not be able to differentiate between the presence or absence of beta amyloid,” said Algeciras-Schimnich.  

Woman blood draw

Patients who take the test are classified as positive or negative for the presence of the accumulation of beta amyloid.  (iStock)

“These patients will need additional tests to determine if they are positive or negative for the accumulation of beta amyloid.”

The test is purposely designed to minimize the number of false positive results as compared to other tests, the doctor said.

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“The test has been validated at Mayo Clinic through a rigorous quality process backed by scientific experts and clinicians,” Algeciras-Schimnich said.

The test is currently available for clinicians to order through Mayo Clinic Laboratories. 

Alzheimer’s disease

Evidence of Alzheimer’s disease is seen on PET scans at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment (CART) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, March 2023. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo)

“Since it is a blood test, it requires a blood draw by a phlebotomist, so anyone who is averse to blood should be aware,” said Algeciras-Schimnich.

At this point, the test is only recommended for individuals 50 years of age and older who have symptoms of mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia.

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“We don’t yet have enough data to support how the test performs in younger individuals,” Algeciras-Schimnich said.

Michelle Rankine, PhD, a certified dementia practitioner in Texas, is not associated with Mayo Clinic but shared her comments on the test’s potential.

A PET scan in Washington, D.C.

Accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain can also be evaluated by imaging techniques, such as PET scans or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers, the doctor noted — but those methods have some limitations.  (Michael Robinson Chávez/The Washington Post)

“As the global burden of Alzheimer’s continues to rise, a blood-based test not only offers convenience, but could help transform Alzheimer’s disease research,” Rankine told Fox News Digital. 

“This could make screening more efficient in averting the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

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“This innovation addresses a growing need and could accelerate development of new treatments, improve patient evaluation and care, and potentially even allow for early intervention before symptoms become worse,” Rankine added.

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Ask a doctor: ‘Is it safe to swim underwater with my eyes open?’

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Ask a doctor: ‘Is it safe to swim underwater with my eyes open?’

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Hot summer days include plenty of pool or beach time for many people — but it’s important to stay safe while swimming.

While it may be tempting to open your eyes underwater, experts warn that prolonged exposure could put your vision at risk.

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Fox News Digital spoke with Brian Boxer Wachler, M.D., an ophthalmologist in Beverly Hills, California, who is also a medical reviewer with All About Vision, an online resource, about what happens when people take a peek while swimming.

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A quick glance likely won’t be harmful, the expert said — but extended periods of underwater peeping could cause problems.

“Usually when people open their eyes underwater, the [eyes] begin to feel irritated and they will close their eyes pretty quickly,” Wachler said. 

It may be tempting to open your eyes underwater, but experts warn that prolonged exposure could put your vision at risk. (iStock)

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When swimming in pool water, the chlorine can irritate the eyes, he warned.

Chlorine can cause damage to the outer layer cells that protect the cornea, Dr. Muriel Schornack, a Mayo Clinic optometrist in Minnesota, stated on the clinic’s website.

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As a result, the eye may become red, irritated or sensitive to light, the doctor warned. 

You may also notice blurred vision.

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Man swimming underwater

Swimming in saltwater or untreated freshwater can potentially introduce bacteria into the eyes, a doctor said. (iStock)

“A lot of folks who are highly nearsighted or highly farsighted like to wear their contact lenses while they’re swimming — and if chlorine soaks into those lenses, now you’ve got a reservoir of chlorine on the surface of the eye that’s likely to do damage,” Schornack noted on Mayo Clinic’s site.

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With saltwater or untreated freshwater, the effects can be even harsher, and can potentially introduce bacteria into the eyes, Wachler warned.

blue eye contact lens

For people who wear contacts while swimming, chlorine can soak into the lenses and cause problems, a doctor said. (iStock)

“Microscopic organisms are found in various bodies of water, and can be both beneficial and harmful,” he said.

Bacteria such as E. coli can thrive in contaminated freshwater, while saltwater teems with decomposers like Vibrio, according to the ophthalmologist.

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“Viruses like those causing hepatitis A can linger in polluted water,” he said. 

“Protozoa such as Giardia can cause diarrhea if ingested from untreated sources, while molds like Aspergillus may be found in damp areas around freshwater.”

Signs that you should see a doctor

If you’ve been swimming with your eyes open for an extended period, watch out for signs of irritation like redness, itchiness and a burning sensation, Wachler advised. 

Woman swimming

For those who want to look underwater while swimming, experts recommend wearing goggles to protect the eyes.

“You might also experience watery eyes or increased sensitivity to light,” he said. 

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“These are usually temporary and go away on their own.”

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If you notice a thicker discharge, have trouble seeing or experience severe pain, it could be a sign of infection and warrants a trip to the doctor.

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For those who want to look underwater while swimming, experts recommend wearing goggles to protect the eyes.

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Follow these 9 safe hiking tips to prevent tragedy on the trail

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Follow these 9 safe hiking tips to prevent tragedy on the trail

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Recent hiking-related deaths have spotlighted the need for safety protocols.

While experts agree that hiking is considered a good form of exercise, they stress the importance of being prepared before heading out on the trail, especially during the hot summer months.

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Outdoor enthusiasts shared the following important tips to help prevent hiking hazards.

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1. Study the hiking area before your trip

Before heading out on a hike, familiarize yourself with maps, landmarks and any restricted areas or required permits, say trail experts.

Outdoor enthusiasts shared tips to help prevent trail hazards amid a flurry of recent hiking-related deaths this summer. (iStock)

“Research the terrain, trail difficulty, weather conditions and local wildlife,” Joey Coe, a trip leader for Backroads, a California-based travel touring company, told Fox News Digital. 

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Coe also suggested saving a photo of the trail map on your phone to reference while hiking.

Although cell phones and mapping apps can be helpful, it is important to have a backup paper map in the event of a lost signal, according to Guy deBrun, a lecturer at the Hart School of Hospitality, Sport & Recreation Management at James Madison University in Virginia. 

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“Knowledge of how to use a paper map is imperative,” deBrun, who is also an instructor in wilderness first aid, told Fox News Digital in an email.

Hikers should also know the difficulty level of the planned route, according to the American Hiking Society, a nonprofit based in Silver Springs, Maryland. 

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Snack on trail

Pack lightweight, high-energy foods such as nuts, dried fruit, energy bars and sandwiches, and avoid bringing perishable items unless you have proper storage, experts said regarding outdoor hikes. (iStock)

“It’s also helpful to identify possible emergency exit points,” Maggie Peikon, manager of communications with the American Hiking Society, told Fox News Digital via email. 

Online forums and trail reviews can also provide valuable information about the terrain, she added.

2. Set a ‘time plan’ for your hike

Whether you are setting off alone or with a group, let someone know your expected time frame for arriving at predetermined spots along the trail, experts recommend.

“Knowledge of how to use a paper map is imperative.”

One approach is to create a “time control plan,” which considers linear distance and elevation. 

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A general rule of thumb is to travel two miles per hour, adding one mile for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain. 

“Most novices fail to plan for elevation gain,” deBrun told Fox News Digital.  

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“One thousand feet of elevation gain adds one mile to your total mileage. So, if you are hiking five miles and gaining 2,000 feet, you [should] consider it seven miles. Divide by two miles an hour to estimate your time.”

It is also important to project the amount of daylight you will have during your excursion to avoid returning in the dark if you don’t have the necessary gear to hike at night.

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3. Know your limits

It’s best to start small and build, starting with short, easy, well-marked trails that match your fitness level, experts agreed.

“Take breaks as needed, and don’t push too hard,” said Coe. 

Peikon added, “If you’re feeling too tired, or realize you’re not going to make it to your destination within the time frame you prepared for, turn around and err on the side of caution.”

Map and compass

Before heading out on a hike, trail experts recommend familiarizing yourself with maps, landmarks, and any restricted areas or required permits. (iStock)

It’s also important to stay on the trail, she said.

“Avoid taking shortcuts. Getting off the trail for any reason can easily result in becoming directionally disoriented and getting lost.” 

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4. Maintain a safe distance when hiking

Aim to keep a distance of at least a few feet between hikers to avoid accidents and allow space for wildlife, experts advised. 

For people hiking in a group, it’s best to avoid taking up the whole trail width, according to the American Hiking Society.

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Hikers going downhill should yield to those going uphill.

Also, be wary of potential poisonous vegetation in that region so you can keep a safe distance and avoid accidental contact, experts cautioned.

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5. Prepare for weather conditions

Hikers should consider local weather patterns when deciding what to wear on a hike, experts told Fox News Digital.  

“In many mountainous areas, lightning storms regularly occur in the afternoon,” deBrun said. “Hikers should take this into account.”

Coe recommended dressing in layers to help adjust to changing temperatures. 

“Moisture-wicking, quick-drying materials are best,” he said.

Bear or bug spray

In areas where bears are prevalent, experts suggest packing bear spray to use in the event of an unexpected encounter.  (iStock)

Bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and rain gear, experts advised.

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For family hiking trips, it’s important to be aware of children’s body temperature. “If you are carrying a child, he or she may be cold while you are burning up,” Peikon said. 

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“Conversely, you may feel chilled while your child is warm from running around and playing.”

If multiple children are on the hike, dress them in bright, visible clothing so you can more easily spot them, Peikon said.

6. Wear comfortable, supportive footwear

Multiple hiking trip leaders suggested wearing sturdy, well-fitted hiking boots with good ankle support. 

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“Break them in before your trip to avoid blisters,” Coe cautioned.

Kids hiking

If multiple children are on the hike, dress them in bright, visible clothing so you can more easily spot them, an expert said. (iStock)

Running shoes or trail runners can be appropriate, deBrun said, but hiking boots may be more appropriate in wet or rocky terrain.

7. Bring along essential equipment

Pack a compass or GPS, whistle, flashlight, a basic first aid kit and trekking poles (if needed), said experts.

Teach children to blow the whistle several times in the event they wander away from the group, they also advised. 

Pack a compass or GPS, whistle, flashlight, a basic first aid kit and trekking poles (if needed). 

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“Be aware of your group’s medical needs and any potential allergies,” Coe said. 

Hikers might also want to consider taking a wilderness first aid course, he added.

      

In areas where bears are prevalent, experts suggest packing bear spray to use in the event of an unexpected encounter. 

It’s also a good idea to check with local animal experts about how to navigate an encounter with wildlife.

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8. Stay fueled and hydrated

Pack lightweight, high-energy foods such as nuts, dried fruit, energy bars and sandwiches, and avoid bringing perishable items unless you have proper storage, experts said.

Couple on a hike

Aim to keep a distance of at least a few feet between hikers to avoid accidents and allow space for wildlife, experts advised.  (iStock)

It is also important to leave no trace of food behind. 

“Carry out all trash and leftover food to avoid attracting wildlife and to prevent littering,” Coe advised.

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Packing enough water is essential.

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“Bring at least half a liter of water for every hour you plan to be hiking,” Peikon said — even more when hiking in the heat.

Selfie hiking

Selfies can distract hikers from their surroundings, which can increase the risk of falls or cause them to miss a hazard, according to hiking experts.  (iStock)

Very few water sources are safe to drink without purification, deBrun cautioned.

“Research water sources and bring a water purification system for longer hikes,” he said.

9. Use caution with cellphones and selfies

Selfies can distract hikers from their surroundings, which can increase the risk of falls or cause them to miss a hazard, according to hiking experts. 

“It is always tragic to hear of fatalities due to selfies, which does happen every year in U.S. national parks,” Coe told Fox News Digital.  

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If you need to use your phone, stop walking and stay aware of your surroundings, he said.

“Use your phone only for emergency calls and navigation as needed,” Coe added.

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The Intermittent Fasting Diet: Is It All It’s Cracked Up to Be? | Woman's World

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The Intermittent Fasting Diet: Is It All It’s Cracked Up to Be? | Woman's World



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