November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month and unfortunately, the US ranks first in the increasing number of deaths associated with neurological disease, including Alzheimer’s Disease (dementia). Today, over 5.4M Americans suffer from some degree of Alzheimer’s and this number is expected to double between now and 2030. Did you know that Alzheimer’s affects twice as many patients as heart disease and three times as many patients as cancer in the US? Estimated annual expenditures for 2010 for Alzheimer related treatments were $200B. Yet- this disease, for which there is no cure or proven treatments to delay or stop the disease is almost absent from mainstream media-perhaps because there are not many profitable remedies.
Alzheimer’s is a neurological disease that disrupts the way electricity passes through our brain and also affects the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. Over time, the brain, quite literally, shrinks due to nerve cell death. Risk factors for Alzheimer’s include: age, family history, genetics, head trauma and some lifestyle factors. The primary symptoms for Alzheimer’s is memory loss that disrupts daily life (this is different than normal aging memory changes). Diagnosis is made through a complete medical assessment that may include a physical exam, neurological tests, mental status tests, blood work and brain imaging. There are several stages of Alzheimer’s and patients do not all progress at the same rate. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and no treatments that have proven to delay or stop the progression. Treatments focus on symptom management for sleep disturbances and memory loss.
Most distressing to families of patients with Alzheimer’s are behavior changes such as irritability, depression, anxiety, sleep changes, verbal outbursts and delusions. There are also many “myths” surrounding Alzheimer’s like- do flu shots, aluminum or Aspartame lead to the development of Alzheimer’s? Can only older people get Alzheimer’s?
In this segment, Dr. Monica Parker, a board certified family medicine physician and gerontology specialist and Ms. Suzette Binford, the Program Director of the Atlanta Chapter of the Alzheimer Foundation, will provide a general overview of Alzheimer’s Disease and some tips on “life after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Listeners can visit: www.emoryhealthcare.com and www.alzfdn.org for more information.
Dr. Monica Parker
- MD obtained from University of Nebraska
- Residency completed at University of Mississippi
- Board-Certified in Family Medicine, Gerontologist
- Assistant Professor, Dept. of Medicine, Div. of Geriatric Medicine at Emory University
- Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling from The Citadel
- Program Director, Alzheimer’s Foundation, ATL Chapter