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FROM THE VAULT: An interview with the CNY Alzheimer's Assn. (2008)

FROM THE VAULT: An interview with the CNY Alzheimer's Assn. (2008)

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2008 edition of Healthy Life Magazine.

Alzheimer's Awareness in Focus this Fall

By Christopher Coyne

With the number of those affected now at over 5 million in the United States, chances are someone you know has experienced the effects of Alzheimer's disease-either directly or with a loved one. Those who have witnessed the progression of the disease can attest to the heartbreak of watching someone they love fade into ever deepening dementia and helplessness. The Alzheimer's Association reports in its 2008 Facts and Figures report that Alzheimer's has recently passed diabetes as the sixth leading cause of death among Americans, and predicts that as many as 10 thousand baby-boomers will develop the disease.

Healthy Life talked to Jared Paventi, spokesperson for the Alzheimer's Association's Central New York chapter about Alzheimer's, and what his organization is doing to raise public awareness about the disease. So, what exactly is Alzheimer's disease? A common assumption is that anyone experiencing dementia has Alzheimer's. Mr. Paventi says that's not necessarily true. Alzheimer's is a specific set of symptoms that falls under the broader umbrella of dementia.

Alzheimer's begins by affecting the brain through a person's judgment and short-term memory, and eventually affecting major brain functions. Experts know that plaques that build up on brain cells are the cause of Alzheimer's, but there's no clear-cut answer as to what causes the build-up. The plaques promote tangles in the nerves of cells that in turn strangle particular parts of the brain and that part's function. It may begin with a person's inability to recall specific words.

Eventually, with the loss of short-term memory, the Alzheimer's sufferer will lose the concept of time. They'll not be able to distinguish what's happening and what has happened, which is why it's common for someone with Alzheimer's to mistake a relative or friend for someone from their past.

Although there's no cure for Alzheimer's disease, there is hope. Mr. Paventi said there are medical treatments available to help slow the onset of the disease. And if we're concerned about getting Alzheimer's ourselves, the best advice to delay the onset is to remember that what's good for the heart, is good for the brain. Eat well, exercise, keep your cholesterol and weight down.

Anything that you would do to keep heart healthy will go a long way in keeping your brain sharp and healthy as well. Mr. Paventi also pointed out that scientists are making encouraging advances in the treatment of the disease, and a recent International Conference on Alzheimer's in Chicago addressed exciting developments. If you'd like to find out more about what was discussed at the conference go online to www.alz.org and click on the "News & Events/In the News tab"

One positive thing to take away from the ever-growing number of Alzheimer's cases is that as the disease becomes bigger news, the groups whose goal it is to increase awareness become more visible. For example, every September 21st is "World Alzheimer's Day" TM and according the website of Alzheimer's Disease International, it's a day "when people from around the world come together to focus on raising awareness and the reality of life with dementia". To find out more about World Alzheimer's Day and events around the world, go to ADI's website at www.alz.co.uk.

Contributor:
Jared Paventi
Spokesperson
Azlheimer's Association
Central New York Chapter