A problem shared by mother of four and GP Clare Bailey: Should I take the early dementia test?

Q Should I be tested for Alzheimer’s disease? My mom is 70 and developed Alzheimer’s disease two years ago, and my sister and I, both in their 50s, fear we have it too. I have read that there is a test for this, but will it be able to definitely tell us yes or no?

A You are right to be concerned, as dementia is now the most common cause of death for women in the UK.

When you have it in your family or, like me, reach a certain age and start wondering if you get forgetful and your brain is slowing down, it can be worrying. So I was interested recently to read a new test that can predict your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, which is a common form of dementia.

An anonymous woman, who lives in the UK, asked Clare Bailey if she should be tested for Alzheimer’s disease (file image)

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the United States have identified 16 proteins in the blood that they say predict Alzheimer’s risk for up to 20 years before a person develops it.

Preventing or treating Alzheimer’s disease before it develops is one of the holy grails of neuroscience, because once it sets in, no medical treatment can stop it.

This test is not yet available, but there is another genetic test that can assess your risk for Alzheimer’s. It is not routinely used in the NHS, but is available online, via 23andme.com. Think carefully before you do it; how will you feel if this shows you have a higher risk? Will you tell your family about it?

My husband Michael did this test a few years ago and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the result. Fortunately, it turned out that he did not have a higher risk.

Instead of focusing on your genetic susceptibility, I would advise you both to think about the lifestyle factors that increase your risk, because there is something you can do about it. They include diabetes, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and poor diet (so it’s no wonder that Alzheimer’s disease is often referred to as type 3 diabetes). The sooner you change your lifestyle, the better. Here is what I propose:

Clare (pictured) advised the reader to think about lifestyle factors that might increase her risk of developing Alzheimer's disease

Clare (pictured) advised the reader to think about lifestyle factors that might increase her risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease


Celebrating Christmas with friends and relatives face to face trumps any digital contact. But for many, this is not an option. This year we are missing two of our children who are working overseas, so they will call. The good news is that a phone call to let people know you appreciate them can do wonders. It stimulates oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, and reduces the stress hormone cortisol. In a study of stressed women in college, those who received a phone call from their mothers produced the same oxytocin surge as those who were comforted by physical contact. So pick up that phone.

1. Sweet, ultra-processed foods that clog your arteries, raise your blood sugar, and kill the “good” germs in your gut that reduce inflammation.

2. Keep below the recommended 14 units of alcohol per week.

3. If you smoke, quit. Now.


1. Regular exercise, especially high intensity interval training, known as HIIT (short bursts of intense exercise).

2. Eat a Mediterranean diet rich in healthy natural fats, nuts and fish, as well as lots of vegetables and legumes. And include gut-friendly fermented foods like sauerkraut, live yogurt, and sourdough bread.

3. Maintain a healthy weight. Try intermittent fasting for 12 to 14 hours overnight, or an 800 calorie-a-day diet once or twice a week.

4. Anti-aging your brain; learn a new skill such as a language or sign up for dance classes.

5. To manage stress. Get a good night’s sleep and practice meditation. If you become more and more forgetful, see your GP.


“Sit less and stand more” is a good mantra to adhere to at Christmas. One study compared women’s metabolic responses to exercise, standing, or a sedentary lifestyle. Not surprisingly, the exercise group saw a 20 percent improvement. Not far behind was the less seated group, with a 13% improvement over those who sat longer. So getting off the sofa, rather than staying sedentary in front of the TV, makes all the difference.

You can write to Claire at [email protected] or Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.

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