TCMC Author: Dr. Mario Cornacchione DO
Dr. Cornacchione, a specialist in Geriatric Medicine, is an Associate Professor and Assistant Chair of Family Medicine in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Commonwealth Medical College. He is also the Research Director at the Northeastern Pennsylvania Memory and Alzheimer’s Center where he currently is the principal investigator in clinical trials studying new disease modifying agents for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and prodromal Alzheimer’s disease (MCI).
Dr. Cornacchione is a national speaker on a wide range of topics on geriatric medicine, dementia, aging and long term care. He is a coauthor and reviewer of a number of National Clinical Practice Guidelines in long term care and on the editorial board of the Journal of Parkinson and Alzheimer’s Disease.
WORLD ALZHEIMER’S AWARENESS MONTH
September is World Alzheimer's Awareness Month. It would be very unusual to find a person whose life has not been affected by someone with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Unfortunately, there is a tsunami coming of those baby boomers that will develop the disease. AD is only one form of dementia and an estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages currently have the disease.
The future numbers are even more staggering:
Although older age is a risk factor, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, and older age alone is not sufficient to cause the disease. A family history of Alzheimer’s is not necessary for an individual to develop the disease. However, individuals who have a parent (especially a mother), brother or sister with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease than those who do not have a first-degree relative with AD.
Alzheimer’s disease symptoms vary among individuals. The most common initial symptom is a gradually worsening ability to remember new information. This occurs because the first neurons to be damaged and destroyed are usually in brain regions involved in forming new memories. As neurons in other parts of the brain are damaged and destroyed, individuals experience other difficulties. The following are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s:
As a geriatrician who has taken care of thousands of pateients with Alzheimer’s I can tell you this disease not only eventually steals the essence of who a person is and what their life has been, but also inflicts a large toll on the families of those affected.
No single, simple test exists to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Although physicians can almost always determine if a person has dementia, it may be difficult at times to identify the exact type of dementia. We use a variety of approaches and tools to help make a diagnosis. They include the following:
Not all memory issues are due to a dementia such as AD. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI ) is a condition in which an individual has mild but measurable changes in thinking abilities that are noticeable to the person affected and to family members and friends, but do not affect the individual’s ability to carry out everyday activities. Approximately 15 percent to 20 percent of people age 65 or older have MCI. People with MCI, especially MCI involving memory problems, are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other dementias than people without MCI. A recent systematic review of 32 studies found that an average of 32 percent of individuals with MCI developed Alzheimer’s disease in 5 years.
There is sufficiently strong evidence that regular physical activity and management of cardiovascular risk factors (especially diabetes, obesity, smoking and hypertension) reduce the risk of cognitive decline and may reduce the risk of dementia. In addition, a healthy diet and lifelong learning/cognitive training may reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Thing that may lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease:
Alzheimer’s disease is and will continue to be the major health crisis for the US to deal with in this century. With nearly 14 million people who will have the disease by 2050 it is essential that people with AD and those with mild cognitive impairment participate in clinical trials to help find a medication which will prevent, reverse, delay the onset of or significantly slow the course of the disease. We are fortunate to have clinical trials of potential new medications available locally at the NEPA Memory and Alzheimer’s Center in Plains, PA.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.