Aug 12, 2010

One Man's Case for the Early Detection of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Reading Room

Editor Note: From time to time over the last year I have corresponded with Jay Smith via email. He is a part of the Collective Brain of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).

From time to time, Jay enters comments under articles on ARR. His comments are always on target, thought provoking, and meaningful.

If I was ever confused about the importance of early detection of Alzheimer's disease these doubts have been erased thanks in part to the perspective of Jay Smith and a few others.

Jay has taught me in no uncertain way that there is life after the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. He taught me to believe that early detection can in fact be a "life sentence" not as most believe a "death sentence".

There is one thing that makes Jay very different than the many that are now writing negatively about early detection on the Internet -- Wantland J Smith has Alzheimer's disease.

The following are Jay's words from a comment he sent in to ARR.

By Wantland J Smith


There is a strong move by the Alzheimer's research establishment toward early detection, diagnosis, and treatment - evidenced by the effort to develop new diagnostic criteria for three very early stages of Alzheimer's announced late last month at ICAD.

But, many still share the opinion of Dr. Porras-Polo.

I'm hoping they'll get the message that the distinguished leaders in the field are proclaiming about early detection and intervention being crucial to prevention and eventual cure of the disease.

For now, we already have a growing body of evidence, based on reputable scientific studies, that taking the combination of available Alzheimer's medications slows the progression and provides permanent benefit.

There are also well documented and accepted studies that show the benefits of regular exercise, healthy nutrition, stress reduction, social activity, and brain exercises in either reducing the risk of Alzheimer's or in slowing its progression.

It is simply no longer true that "you're not going to be able to do anything" for it when you get your diagnosis.

A recent Los Angeles Times article (LA Times Health, July 26, 2010) pointed out several well accepted studies about the lifestyle changes one can do.

Articles from Alzheimer's Research Forum (7 May 2010) and Scientific American (May 6, 2010) have also helped to debunk the report of the recent NIH panel of experts negative report on lifestyle preventive measures.

You have cited the studies showing the benefits of taking the combination Aricept and Namenda, and have an active link to it on your page.

The million dollar prize garnered for "Early Detection Matters" the winner of the recent American Express Members' Project (created by another Jay Smith, and his wife Patty from the Washington DC area) has provided a grant, managed by Alzheimer's Association, to publicize the case for early detection and intervention.

My personal experience makes me sensitive to the needs of people living with preclinical and MCI symptoms of AD who may be seeking a diagnosis. If they want to find out what's causing their symptoms, they should be able to. The diagnosis can be liberating, as mine was, because it allows people to plan their futures and make the lifestyle adjustments necessary to enjoy the years ahead.

In the meantime, let's keep putting the word out.

Jay Smith, Los Angeles CA

Wantland J. (Jay) Smith was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease in late 2005, based on neuropsychological tests and FDG/PET.

Since diagnosis, he became an early stage Alzheimer’s advocate, creating the first early stage memory loss forum of the California Southland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in October 2007, and led their second early memory loss forum in March 2009.

He has participated in three early stage support groups, including the one he instigated and currently co-facilitates Leeza’s Place.

With the Alzheimer’s Association he has attended two Public Policy Forums in Washington DC, recently served as a member of the Association’s second Early Stage Advisory Group, and was appointed as the first person with AD to serve on the board of directors of the California Southland Chapter, completing his two-year term in the summer of 2010.

He frequently shares his story as a panelist and through press interviews.

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