I’m always looking for new research, treatments and tips that will help my patients stay healthy and fight premature aging. Recently, I came across 2 new and important testing devices that can help my patients know the health of their brain and colon, as they get older. So, I’m sending them along to my readers as well.
These 2 Important Tests Troubleshoot Your Brain and Colon
One of the most important things you can do for your health is to have a colonoscopy at regular intervals. Everyone over the age of 50 should have at least 1 for screening purposes. Yet, the thought of having one puts a lot of fear into my patients, and maybe you too. Not too long ago, the “virtual” colonoscopy was developed which looked at your colon via x-ray technology without the 4 ft scope. This helped many patients get in to have at least this much of a colonoscopy done. But it had its drawbacks.
First, you still have to do the same prep for a virtual colonoscopy as using the scope. Unlike traditional colonoscopies, the virtual is often not covered on insurance and the cost, for many people, is prohibitive. Secondly, if problems are denoted during the virtual, you’ll have to have a regular scope as well.
Now comes along a little device called the “PillCam Colon”, whose technology was developed out of an idea used in Israeli defense systems. It was recently approved for patient use by the FDA. This is a pill, about the size of a large multivitamin that contains a tiny, battery-powered camera in it. You swallow it, and it makes it way through your digestive tract over about 8 hours. As it goes, it takes pictures of your small and large intestine and transmits them to a recording device worn about your waist. These pictures are later reviewed by a doctor. The pictures look for early signs of cancer or pre-cancerous conditions in hopes to catch them early.
The one drawback, so far, of PillCam seems to be that the pictures are not quite as clear as the traditional colonoscopy. Too, like the virtual colonoscopy, if problems are found, you may have to go back and have traditional scoping. So, at this point, doctors are still encouraging regular colonoscopies and are aiming PillCam at the patients who have problems undergoing standard colonoscopies either from their unique anatomy, scar tissue from previous surgeries, or just plain fear. These groups of people account for about 750,000 people a year! So, if the PillCam can get these patients to be screened at all then, I’d say they’d be a huge asset in the fight against colon cancer. If you’re over 50, and haven’t yet had a colonoscopy out of fear, ask your doctor about the PillCam. It just may make the idea of colonoscopies a whole lot easier for you to swallow.
The SAGE Test
No, it’s not about spices or how much wisdom you have, the SAGE (for Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination) is a 15-minute take-home questionnaire that you can get at your doctor’s office or download from AARP’s website, and other places online (see link below). Developed by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Division of Cognitive Neurology, SAGE asks you 22 questions designed to ferret out impairments in your cognitive processes – like memory, learning, etc – that may be early warning signs of Alzheimer disease.
But even if you do score positive for impairments in brain function, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have early Alzheimer’s. It could mean that your functions are being affected by medications, lack of sleep, or ministrokes called “TIA’s” (transient ischemic attacks) and can be treated simply by lifestyle and/or medication changes. Yet, if the brain dysfunction is thought to be a warning sign of early Alzheimer, starting early on the medications that are currently available to treat the condition can greatly slow down its progression.
According to the researchers who created the test, about 80% of people with mild cognitive dysfunction in thinking and memory can be accurately identified. And, 95% of the people who aren’t experiencing issues will take the SAGE and have normal scores. If you take the SAGE and miss 6 or more questions, you’ll be referred to your physician to follow-up.
The test has been successful in getting people to at least start a discussion with their doctor about their brain health. And I’m all for that! Keep in mind that memory glitches are common as you get older and usually are not a warning sign for Alzheimer’s. But the SAGE test is designed to see what may be normal memory, thinking issues, and what may be a warning. (To take the SAGE test, see the link below in Sources).
Staying healthy as you get older means being proactive. Take care to eat an optimal diet with enough nutrients for your age, get enough exercise and sleep, keep stress down, and check in with your doctor at least every year for a complete physical. If you already have health conditions, you’ll want to see your doctor at least every 6 months, or sooner, if they feel you should. The PillCam and The SAGE can be 2 more assets in your wellness arsenal.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.