What if I can’t get my doctor to prescribe for dementia prevention testing?
All is not lost! In fact, it’s an opportunity to move into DIY dementia prevention testing gear. Take inventory of your health situation (see “Your Strategy” below), assess which tests you think are most important for you to get, then find a service that does blood testing without a doctor’s prescription. Such testing services are cropping up right and left. If you would like some help with dementia prevention testing feel free to contact me.
I am not a doctor nor am I responsible for your health! Yes, dementia prevention testing matters, but please consult a physician before implementing any of the blood or other testing suggested below. If you are already having symptoms of memory loss you should seek professional advice. Click here to contact Dr. Bredesen. A good start is to scroll down the page to “Contact” in order to find out if there is a Bredesen-trained functional medicine practitioner near you. Most traditional Western medical doctors are not yet familiar with dementia prevention protocols and may just tell you there is nothing they can do.
Free, routine blood work
First, though, let’s look at which substances from Testing Matters might be included in a routine annual checkup. How about Vitamin D? It’s a good bet, since a majority of Americans, especially women are Vitamin D deficient. If your primary care physician (PCP) doesn’t mention it, by all means ask! Other likely candidates are glucose and free insulin especially if there’s a family history of diabetes. Routine physicals always include the lipid panel–a test for cholesterol. Be sure to ask for these routine and dementia prevention testing prescriptions to get you started.
Medicare might work for you too
I have to say, Medicare has been good to me through this process. If you are 65 or older you might luck out like I did for the first round of dementia prevention testing and have most of it covered by Medicare. My bill for the twenty five substances tested was less than $50. I have a Humana supplemental, Medicare Advantage plan (available in Delaware County, PA).
Of course, while we hope for this to change soon, currently, in order for insurance to cover testing, our health care system requires a doctor’s prescription. To her credit, my PCP was, at first, open to Dr. Dale Bredesen’s research in which he reversed Alzheimer’s in 100 human patients using a customized, multi-factor protocol based on extensive testing. As I said to her, with my family history of two parents with dementia, I feel like it would be irresponsible of me NOT to pursue this. She tentatively agreed and prescribed an extensive list for dementia prevention testing.
Out of that round of blood testing I got values for twenty-five out of forty-two substances. (I don’t know why Quest didn’t do the other tests). NOTE! If you have a parent or sibling with dementia, remind your doctor. Tell them that emerging research shows that having a family history or even a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is no longer a death sentence. We can take actions that drastically increase our chance of delaying or reversing dementia, but it all starts with testing. Maybe if we start trying to educate our doctors about this, we can add to the momentum of organizations like Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) described below.
Not fairy dust but gremlin dust
Since that round of tests in June and July, 2018 some gremlin has been sprinkling my PCP with skeptic’s dust. (For all I know she might have gotten in trouble for helping me be pro-active about dementia prevention. By that I mean, for prescribing tests that most doctors/insurance companies still see as unnecessary.) Anyway, when I returned in October with a list of the tests I still needed to get, she basically told me that she couldn’t prescribe any more tests. (What she actually said was, “Mary Ann, you’re torturing me!” I didn’t know exactly what she meant but didn’t want to use up my time finding out.) Never mind, I thought, let’s just find another way, right? I’m not giving up that easily and I hope you don’t either.
Since I’m still missing about half the tests that Dr. Bredesen recommends, I’ve been checking out testing services like RequestATest, AnyLabTestNow, DiscountedLabs and others. Maybe some of you have found services like these in your area that contract out to local labs for testing. From what I’ve found so far, the prices from these services are generally lower than at Quest or LabCorp. I’ve noticed too, that there are often discounted package deals that group several related substances together.
I’ve determined that I can take $1000 from my emergency fund in order to complete the remaining blood, genetic and Cyrex Array tests I’ve determined to be the most critical given my life and family history. Although $1000 is a lot of money to me, I have to agree with Dr. Bredesen that it’s a small investment compared to the cost of nursing home care for a dementia patient (see chart below).
What’s your strategy?
The great news is that we now have scientific evidence that helps us roughly assess our risk for developing Alzheimer’s or related dementias AND to make lifestyle changes that can decrease our odds for becoming a victim. The first risk factor is our age. From the Alzheimer’s Association website: “Most individuals with the disease are 65 and older. After age 65, the risk of Alzheimer’s doubles every five years. After age 85, the risk reaches nearly one-third.” The second risk factor is gender. Two out of three Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. The third risk factor is family history. From the Alzheimer’s Association website we learn that if you have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s your chances of developing the disease increase and if you have two immediate family members with the disease your chances increase further.
If any of these risk factors applies to you, I want to tell you that you are NOT destined to become an Alzheimer’s statistic! More research is coming out every day that points to the significance of three intervening actions that can reduce our risk.
- First, early detection. Know the warning signs. Use online cognitive tests to assess your mental functioning. One of the most popular is the SAGE. (Check out this website for many other useful articles on Alzheimer’s.)
- Second, assessment of your metabolic function through blood testing and your systems functioning through Cyrex Array testing (look for more about this in an upcoming blogpost).
- Third, make lifestyle changes based on the results of testing. Much more on this in future blogposts.
If you want to talk about any of this, feel free to email me from the Contact page or below.