NY Times Article Describes Research Efforts to Stop Alzheimer's
When does Alzheimer's disease start to get its grips on the brain? And when should treatment start? These are a few of the conundrums described in the New York Times' article, "Finding Alzheimer's Before A Mind Fails."
The article by Denise Grady details the efforts by leading researchers to halt this disease and also offers a sneak peak into the multiple theories that scientists are using to guide their research. The story also highlights several ongoing studies in which middle-aged children who have parents and other relatives with Alzheimer's volunteer to be medically evaluated on a regular basis in order to determine when the disease first begins.
"We think that by the time an individual begins to experience memory loss, there is already substantial brain damage in areas critical to memory and learning," said Dr. John C Morris, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis. Thus, these studies are important in pinpointing that critical time and focusing development of preventative drugs that can be prescribed for people at risk.
Grady noted that until the 1970s, Alzheimer's was considered a rare brain disorder that struck people in their 50s. At that time, those who were in their 80s (like my grandmother who had undiagnosed dementia) were considered senile, which was thought to be a consequence of aging. It wasn't until researchers compared the brains of younger people who died of Alzheimer's with those of "senile" elderly people and found similar plaques and tangles that the implications of Alzheimer's began to dawn. "Senility, they decided, was not a natural part of aging; it was a disease," Grady reported.
That's important to note when considering that the Alzheimer's Association estimates that by 2050, 11 million to 16 million Americans will have the disease. Currently, 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's; most of these people are over 65 years old.
Thus, it's important to continue to push for funding to support research. And it's also important to take preventative measures through diet, exercise, and staying mentally and socially engaged throughout life in order to try to stave off this dreadful disease. Our lives - and our brains - depend on it.