The world’s youngest person to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a group of Chinese researchers, was recently found.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The patient, a 19-year-old from Beijing, was identified in the study as having “probable” Alzheimer’s after experiencing memory loss and attention issues starting with the age of 17.
A year later, the patient began to experience short-term memory loss as well, becoming unable to remember where he had put his belongings or what had happened the day before.
He also had trouble reading and had slow reactions.
Although the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid was cognitively normal, the condition was diagnosed as such because the patient was found to have mild brain atrophy.
The patient had zero family history of the illness or other causes according to the authors, who were led by Jia Jianping, making the case exceptionally unusual.
The researchers’ findings contradict the widely held notion that Alzheimer’s disease affects only the elderly.
They explained that “[The study] proposed to pay attention to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Exploring the mysteries of youngsters with Alzheimer’s disease might become one of the most challenging scientific questions in the near future.”
Even an early onset version of the disease, which affects people under 65, is quite rare, making up only 5 to 10 percent of all known cases.
Almost 100 percent of all patients under 30 have pathological gene mutations. A 21 year old who also had this gene mutation was the previous youngest person to have the disease.
The teenage patient from China is a special case because there were no known genetic mutations involved, according to the researchers.
They explained that “This is the youngest person ever reported to meet diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease without recognized genetic mutations.”
In a different study, Jia and his team hypothesized that altering one’s lifestyle may be able to minimize the negative impact of late-onset Alzheimer’s.
The researchers discovered that maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in brain activity, engaging in regular exercise and abstaining from alcohol and smoking, can prevent memory loss regardless of one’s genes.
The team went on to note that a “Healthy diet had the biggest protective effect on memory, followed by cognitive activity, and physical exercise.”