The critical role of primary care clinicians (PCCs) in Alzheimer's disease (AD) prevention, diagnosis and management must evolve as new treatment paradigms and disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) emerge. Our understanding of AD has grown substantially: no longer conceptualized as a late-in-life syndrome of cognitive and functional impairments, we now recognize that AD pathology builds silently for decades before cognitive impairment is detectable. Clinically, AD first manifests subtly as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to AD before progressing to dementia. Emerging optimism for improved outcomes in AD stems from a focus on preventive interventions in midlife and timely, biomarker-confirmed diagnosis at early signs of cognitive deficits (i.e. MCI due to AD and mild AD dementia). A timely AD diagnosis is particularly important for optimizing patient care and enabling the appropriate use of anticipated DMTs. An accelerating challenge for PCCs and AD specialists will be to respond to innovations in diagnostics and therapy for AD in a system that is not currently well positioned to do so. To overcome these challenges, PCCs and AD specialists must collaborate closely to navigate and optimize dynamically evolving AD care in the face of new opportunities. In the spirit of this collaboration, we summarize here some prominent and influential models that inform our current understanding of AD. We also advocate for timely and accurate (i.e. biomarker-defined) diagnosis of early AD. In doing so, we consider evolving issues related to prevention, detecting emerging cognitive impairment and the role of biomarkers in the clinic.
Keywords: Alzheimer disease; biomarkers; dementia; disease-modifying therapies; mild cognitive impairment; primary health care.
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Internal Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Association for Publication of The Journal of Internal Medicine.