I woke up to an email from Quest Diagnostics last week – announcing they’ve released the first consumer blood test to detect the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Scrolling through the email, I was informed that I could put the test in my ‘shopping cart’ and buy it for $399.
My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in his early 80s, so this email gave me pause and opened up a host of questions. I responded by scouring news agencies online to discover that, indeed, this is the first direct-to-consumer blood test to detect an Alzheimer’s disease protein that can appear years, or decades, before any symptoms.
According to Dr. Michael Racke, Quest’s medical director of neurology,
“One of the advantages of having an amyloid test is that it lets you know, potentially years in advance of even being symptomatic, that you are at risk for Alzheimer’s.”
Following up on this headline, and wondering whether I should get the blood test, I reached out to my late parents’ physician for her opinion. She offered a challenging perspective and insight on the possible impact of taking this blood test, which offers no treatment. As I focused on what I could control, I created a tool highlighting those things you can control and things you can’t control. And I challenged myself be curious about where I spend my energy. Let’s dive in!
The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #9
Now you can get a blood test for Alzheimer’s
Quest’s AD-Detect test uses the same technology as Quest offered to physicians in early 2022. Instead of going through a healthcare provider, it’s available online for adults 18 and older who may have mild memory loss or a family history of Alzheimer’s and want to understand their own risk for the disease. It is not a diagnosis.
Given that Alzheimer’s disease is among the top 5 most feared health conditions, and if you’re over 60, the condition most Americans are afraid of getting, this test allows individuals to start treatment sooner, potentially preventing or slowing the onset of disease.
But it brings with it some challenges, as outlined Adam Piore’s piece in UCSF Magazine.
What does it mean if you test positive for Alzheimer’s biomarkers but have no symptoms? How certain is it that you will develop the disease? Should you try new medications that could slow its progression but might also cause serious side effects? Would you want to know that you could one day face a devastating illness for which there is currently no cure?
Read the full story on this blood test here.
When I got through to Dr. Hanah Polotsky, now the Enterprise Regional Medical Director at Centura Health, we talked about the treatment she provided to both of my parents for nearly a decade at Kaiser Permanente Colorado.
As we reminisced over her care of my parents, one with Alzheimer’s, she shared how her family has also been impacted by Alzheimer’s on her paternal and maternal side. So, I was blunt, “what do you think of this Alzheimer’s test? Since I’m so close to this, will it give me a roadmap for the future?”
Dr. Polotsky is unabashedly direct and speaks with a fabulous Russian accent.
“Lois – your dad got Alzheimer’s very late in life. In his 80s. There is no treatment to prevent this disease-and right now, you have no symptoms. If those markers are there, you’ll spend the rest of your life worrying. Here’s something to think about. We do know what decreases the risk. Do that. Stimulate your brain. Exercise. Watch your diet.”
This insight – to focus on what I can control, rather than that which is out of my control was an amazing reminder not just for this test, but for so much in life and work.
Check this out and create your own list of what you know you can control – and do that. This is where you get your strength, where you exert influence and how you show up every single day.
Notice those items that you cannot control. If they are taking up more space than you know is worthwhile, how might you shift to focusing on those things where you are front and center – and can make an impact?
The amazing people I coach every day remind me that what I focus on I strengthen. As I was diving into the research for this week’s HIT list it just so happened that many of them were dealing with similar life and work issues.
Choosing to focus on the things they were able to control offered folks a chance to breathe again. To remember that they know exactly what to do.
Reflecting on the time spent with my parents in their final years has been bittersweet. Through every single challenging step, not knowing what was around the corner, we shared a deep love and respect for one another. And something my Aunt Marie shared with me through my journey, who cared for her parents for decades more than I, always stuck with me.
I will never regret one moment of the time we spent together.
For the time being, I will not be taking the home test to determine my risk for Alzheimer’s. I will choose to focus on what I can control. There may come a time when I decide differently.
What about you? Where are you putting your energy? I’d love to learn from you in the comments section.