Magazine article FDA Consumer

Observations

Magazine article FDA Consumer

Observations

Article excerpt

In 1907, Alois Alzheimer, a German neurologist known for his efforts to unravel the mysteries of mental illness, described the case of a 55-year-old woman with severe memory loss, language problems, paranoia, agitation and difficulty moving.

Alzheimer examined the woman's brain tissue after her death. He found accumulations of protein that have since become the markers of a cruel disease that starts with simple forgetfulness and progresses to severe mental decline and death.

Alzheimer, known for his ability to teach and to express complex material simply through words and drawings, stressed the need to study the physiology of the brain in order to grasp the psychiatric implications.

A century later, scientists are making use of the latest imaging technologies to unlock the secrets of Alzheimer's disease and are looking into its potential prevention. For example, high levels of intellectual and physical activity seem to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. Research continues on a number of fronts, including causes, treatments, risk factors, and identifying the disease in its early stage with an eye toward improving outcomes.

An estimated 4 million Americans have Alzheimer's, with about 360,000 new cases reported each year. More women than men are affected. In upcoming decades, the number of people with Alzheimer's and the cost of caring for Alzheimer's patients are likely to skyrocket with the aging of the baby boomer generation. For more on this devastating disease that poses a huge emotional and financial burden on those who have the disease and their families, see our cover story titled "Alzheimer's: Searching for a Cure," beginning on page 18. …

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