After the recent article about Alzheimer’s, when I shared some of my family’s experience with Alzheimer’s, I received an invitation from the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater East Ohio Area Chapter, to attend an event in Ravenna with the opportunity to sit down, one-on-one, to talk with Keith N. Fargo, Ph.D. Fargo is director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association. He leads the research programs at the association that are looking for answers that will solve the issue of the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease.
First, here are some 2019 facts about Alzheimer’s Disease:
¯ Alzheimer’s Disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. (Yes, one can die, not just from complications of Alzheimer’s, but from the disease itself.)
¯ There are 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, the number is expected to be 14 million. (If your life has been touched by Alzheimer’s you understand how horrific this is.)
¯ In 2019, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $290 billion and by 2050, $1.1 trillion.
¯ Every 65 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s.
¯ Between 2000 and 2017, deaths from heart disease decreased by 9 percent while deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 145 percent.
¯ One in three seniors dies with an Alzheimer’s or other dementia diagnosis. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
The Alzheimer’s Association goes on to say that in 2017, in the state of Ohio, there were 5,117 deaths from Alzheimer’s. There are 603,000 caregivers providing 687,000,000 hours of unpaid care. The health of these caregivers is at risk.
Dr. Fargo advised that diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is still a diagnosis of exclusion, ruling out other conditions with similar symptoms. For example, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) and Alzheimer’s Disease look similar, he explained.
Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. As life expectancy increases, more people will develop the disease. So, is it prevalent to industrialized countries like the United States, Europe, Japan, China? What about third world countries?
In under-developed countries the life expectancy is much lower than in industrialized countries. However, as those countries are developed and life expectancy rises, a rise in Alzheimer’s is expected, Dr. Fargo said.
There are reports of new pharmaceuticals for Alzheimer’s. Namenda came out 16 years ago, and for some, like my mother, it slowed the progression of the disease. But, said Dr. Fargo, Namenda was the last medication to come out. The cure, he said, is going to come out through clinical trials. He urges getting involved in the clinical trials. Early diagnosis is important to rule out other, treatable, conditions.
Is blood pressure medication related to Alzheimer’s?
“Yes, but not in the way you might think,” said Dr. Fargo. He cited a blood pressure study in which it was learned that persons with a systolic number of 120 were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than persons with a systolic number of 140. (That is the top number of your blood pressure.)
There are charlatans out there who claim to have a cure for Alzheimer’s, but Dr. Fargo is skeptical of them. The best sources of information for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, he said, include the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org/eastohio) and the NIH (National Institutes of Health) ADEAR (Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral) Center (www.nia.nih.gov). ADEAR was created by act of U.S. Congress in 1990.
BMAA (a methylamino-L-alanine) is false and there is no evidence of benefits of medical marijuana in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Fargo said. Talk to your health care provider about your concerns. Earlier is better.
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