Alzheimer’s disease the most common form of dementia, affecting over 5 million people in the United States alone. And anyone who knows a friend or family member who has suffered from Alzheimer’s will tell you that day-to-day living becomes a real struggle for both patients and caregivers.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease, meaning it causes a progressive decline in brain function. As the stages of the disease progress, memory loss and other symptoms become more prevalent.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can include:
- Memory problems that persist or get worse over time;
- Disorientation and problems understanding surroundings;
- Problems with speaking and writing;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Inability to perform daily tasks cooking, dressing and bathing;
- Changes in personality and behavior.
There is no definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease, but a combination of physical and laboratory tests, as well as brain imaging help doctors to determine whether or not a patient is indeed suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
Considering the tremendous impact that Alzheimer’s has on patients and families, and the economic cost on our health care system, it is more important than ever to raise awareness and actively participate in finding a cure.
So today, I cannot help but feel optimistic that someday soon we will find one. Public awareness of the disease has come a long way over the past decade, and major strides have been made in developing treatments, thanks to increases in both private and federally funded research. But there remains a stigma attached to the disease because of a lack of understanding and complexity that prevents people from getting an early diagnosis, and in some cases, any diagnosis at all.
For the last year, I have been very proud to work with the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, whose purpose is to find a cure for Alzheimer’s through the research efforts of Dr. Paul Greengard and his team of scientists. I truly believe that Greengard, a Nobel laureate, working in his lab at the Rockefeller University in New York City, is truly dedicated to understanding the diversity of the disease and will one day achieve his goal helping to develop a cure, along with thousands of other scientists around the world working very hard for the same purpose.
We all know someone who has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease. When you look a the millions of people who are suffering along with their families, you can understand the importance of being active in the search for a cure.
I urge every American to educate themselves on Alzheimer’s disease, to donate to research and awareness groups when you can, and to remember that if you or a loved one are suffering, you’re not alone. The present is difficult, but the future looks bright.
For more information on Alzheimer's disease research, log onto www.ALZinfo.org.
For more information on World Alzheimer's Month, log onto www.alz.org.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.