What if you knew Alzheimer’s was coming for you?

A recent article in the New York times reports that simple blood tests may soon reveal alarming news about your cognitive health. Today, finding out whether dangerous plaques are building up in your brain requires either a PET scan at a cost of about $4,000 or a spinal tap. And while genetic tests can help predict risk, they don’t tell us anything about the current state of your brain. Effective blood tests could reveal thousands — even millions — of people who are now living with a “pre-Alzheimer’s” condition.

When the H.I.V. test became available in the 1980s, thousands of people suddenly felt connected to the disease. The test radicalized many of them, and those activists pushed for the reform of medical trials, requested a shorter drug approval process and fought against medical discrimination. Most consequentially, they demanded — and got — treatments that have extended the lives of AIDS patients by decades.

So what would happen if something like an H.I.V. test for Alzheimer’s were to exist in the near future, and millions of people found out that their brains were on the path to dementia? Dr. Alison Goate, a professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai in New York, said the effects could be profound. Today there are no Alzheimer’s survivors. That means that Alzheimer’s patients “can’t speak for themselves,” she observed. Widespread blood tests could create an army of “pre-Alzheimer’s” patients clamoring for breakthroughs in treatment.

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