Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

To Conquer Alzheimer's

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

To Conquer Alzheimer's

Article excerpt

Needed: a global effort to end the disease

When the Group of 8 economic forum set an international goal this month to conquer Alzheimer's disease by 2025, it may have sounded too ambitious. The dementia-type illness, after all, is so prevalent that nearly half of the 85-and-over population have it -- presenting a huge personal, familial and global challenge.

Still, the very act of setting this goal energizes the quest for better diagnostic tools and even a cure.

As humanity has learned from the fights against cancer and AIDS, we can tame health scourges if we put all our minds -- and considerable money -- to the effort.

HIV and cancer were once inexorable killers. They remain formidable diagnoses today, yet millions of people survive them thanks to hard-won, near-miraculous medical advancements.

The world must demand the same high-priority effort against Alzheimer's, whose shadow looms larger and larger as the population ages.

At ground zero

In retiree-laden communities like Southwest Florida, Alzheimer's is a visible intruder in thousands of households, diminishing the gift of longer lifespans. In a progression that can last a decade or more, dementia's memory-demolishing effects gradually incapacitate patients and steal quality of life from their families, too. From care-giving to assisted-living and nursing-home facilities, the community struggles to meet the need for Alzheimer's-related services.

Medically, emotionally and socially, it is a difficult, costly and long-term problem. As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes, "Individuals with Alzheimer's disease use a disproportionate amount of health care resources; for instance, they are hospitalized 2-3 times as often as people the same age who do not have the disease."

In this region of Florida, organizations such as the Roskamp Institute and the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute have long sought to understand the ailment's cause and find better ways to manage, treat or cure it. "To end Alzheimer's disease" is Byrd's vision statement.

They are not alone; research is underway around the world, but breakthroughs are elusive. Despite Alzheimer's prevalence, scientists aren't sure how it begins or how to stop it. …

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