Aug 31, 2012

Am I Worried About Alzheimer's -- Bob DeMarco

If scientists were able to develop a treatment that delayed the onset of Alzheimer's by five years, to the age of 90, the number of persons suffering from Alzheimer's would be cut in half.

By Bob DeMarco 
 Alzheimer's Reading Room

Yesterday I was contacted by ABC News . They wanted me to answer a very specific question, "Am I worried about Alzheimer's disease".

They put the question in a specific frame because they knew I cared for my mother, Dotty, for more than 8 years, and as a result had a very close relationship with Alzheimer's disease.

My answer is clear, no I am not worried. Yes, I am concerned. I understand that statistically if your mother suffered from Alzheimer's your own likelihood of suffering from Alzheimer's is slightly increased.

I can say I was more worried in those early days when I was taking care of my mother.

Right now, there is nothing that can prevent Alzheimer's disease. I also understand that if any kind of effective treatment is discovered it is unlikely that it will help me.

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I am a firm believer in this simple idea. I do believe you can prevent Alzheimer's. This point of view is somewhat controversial. So, I will explain my own belief.

If you were to start doing the right kinds of things, the same exact things that help keep your heart, brain, and major organs healthy, you might be able to prevent Alzheimer's. Say what?

It is pretty simple.  If  you do all the right things you might delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. You might want to close your eyes here. If you delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease you might

Die before you get it.

Consider this. If scientist were able to develop a treatment that delayed the onset of Alzheimer's by five years, to the age of 90, the number of persons suffering from Alzheimer's would be cut in half.

Nearly 50 percent of persons diagnosed with Alzheimer's are 85 or older. About one in every three persons at the age of 80 are likely to suffer from Alzheimer's.

Of course, it is not often said but most of the people that are diagnosed on or after the age of 85 have already been living with Alzheimer's or a related dementia for many years. A large fraction of the this older population are already nearing or beyond the moderate stage of Alzheimer's.

Let's use Dotty as an example.

Dotty was officially diagnosed with probably Alzheimer's at the age of 88. I think she scored a 19 on the MMSE. She was already well on her way.

But what if Dotty had a medication available that would have delayed onset by five years? Well then, she would not have been officially diagnosed until the age of 93.

No matter how you cut it or slice it, I would have gratefully taken an extra five year, or lets say three years, where Dotty would have been able to function normally. She was doing just fine at the age of 82-83.

If Dotty had died at the age of 87 we would never had known that she was suffering from an early stage of dementia. Obviously, if that would have happened you would never have known me. The Alzheimer's Reading Room would never have existed.

So my point here is instead of worrying,  I use my concern to do the kinds of things: exercise, eat Mediterranean, get plenty of bright light, and now finally get socialized, that might delay the onset of Alzheimer's for me.

Of course, I have no way of knowing right now if I will ever suffer from any type of dementia.

There is a catch 22. By taking better care of my heart, brain, and vital organs, I might actually be extending my life. Hmm. Catch 22.

Everyone gets to decide. If you are worried, why not get serious about trying to delay the onset of Alzheimer's or a related dementia? You decide.

Are you worried?

Do you fear Alzheimer's?

You can read the article on ABC News that quotes me here -- Future of Alzheimer's Battle Lies in Prevention.

Alzheimer's Patients Can Deceive Outsiders

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room