Aug 8, 2013

Alzheimer’s Media Coverage: Who to believe? What to believe?

Like so many people, I’d been saying for years that there was a lack of information when it came to Alzheimer’s disease. My constant drumbeat was, ‘We need a spotlight on this terrible disease!’

By Nancy Wurtzel
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

The media seems to be saturated with stories about Alzheimer’s and other dementias – from newspapers to television to blogs and more.

However, the information is often either the same information being rehashed time and again, or it is startling new finding that can sometimes seem dubious.

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For instance, last month a New York Times article reported dementia rates in England and Wales have plummeted by as much as 25 percent over the last two decades. This directly contradicts The Rush Study, published in March, which extrapolates the Alzheimer’s numbers in our own country and comes to the conclusion the numbers are growing faster than we thought.

Which study is right?

A Texas doctor proclaims in the Dallas Morning News he believes a cure for Alzheimer’s disease is just around the corner, even when most experts say we are not any closer than we were five years ago.

One recent story in USA Today outlines five keys to warding off dementia -- exercise, sleep, nutrition, challenging your brain and limiting stress. This same information has been reported over and over for several years, and I feel as though I could recite it by heart.

Yet, I guess there are still people they need to reach.

Dr. Andrew Weil, and many others who promote holistic medicine, says the use of turmeric, a culinary spice, helps block the formation of plaques in the brain. However, there are an equal number of skeptics in the medical world who say it probably does nothing.

Is turmeric the real deal or will it prove to be just another ginkgo biloba?

An online search for the cause of Alzheimer’s shows many results claiming the disease stems from plaques and tangles in the brain, while other sites indicate the cause is unknown and still others proclaim inflammation is at the root of the disease.

For many years, researchers had their hopes pinned mainly on those plaques and tangles. Now, they are less certain.

NBC Nightly News and countless other media reported a few weeks ago that people should now trust their instincts when it comes to cognitive decline. In other words, if someone believes he or she has memory problems, that person is probably right.

If this is true, it totally upends what we have been told for decades.
Nancy Wurtzel
Nancy Wurtzel writes Dating Dementia -- slightly twisted and humorous blog -- about making big changes at midlife. Read about Nancy's journey through divorce, restarting a career, empty nest challenges, moving home, baby boomer issues and caring for an aging parent with Alzheimer’s disease. Visit Dating Dementia.


Although I am self-educated, I consider myself to be knowledgeable about the issues surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. However, these days I admit I’m often confused about the conflicting media coverage.

Feeling adrift, I no longer know exactly who to believe, what to believe or how to sift through the information being disseminated.

Should I take turmeric or not?

If I religiously do all the things on the oft-published, brain-health list, will I really dodge memory loss? I never remember where I’ve parked my car – do I already have the beginnings of Alzheimer’s?

Like so many people, I’d been saying for years that there was a lack of information when it came to Alzheimer’s disease. My constant drumbeat was, ‘We need a spotlight on this terrible disease!’

Well, now we have that spotlight.

Yes, I’m very grateful the media is focusing on cognitive function and loss issues. Yet, I just wish it was easier to figure out what and who to believe.

Your comments, insight and reactions are welcome below.

Original content Alzheimer's Reading Room