Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

ALZHEIMERS DISEASE ; Official Talks about Research, Outlook

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

ALZHEIMERS DISEASE ; Official Talks about Research, Outlook

Article excerpt

From smoking to diabetes, West Virginians top the worst health lists in areas that set them up for another big health problem as they age - Alzheimer's Disease, the 6th leading cause of death in the country and a rapidly growing problem for U.S. Baby Boomers. Keith Fargo, the director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer's Association, visited Charleston on Thursday for a public talk on Alzheimer's research, and sat down with the Gazette-Mail Friday to discuss the future and challenges of trying to cure Alzheimer's in the next decade.

"We've had a lot of successes in terms of increasing research funding, but it's not enough, Fargo said. "Several years ago, the Alzheimer's Association asked researchers what it would take, because as part of the National Alzheimer's Project Act, it was mandated that the federal government develop a national plan to address this, and that National Plan' has set several goals, one of which is a research goal - the research goal is to prevent or effectively treat Alzheimer's by 2025. That's only 10 years from now, and medical research takes a long time, so that's an aggressive goal.

To reach the 2025 goal, scientists told the association that Alzheimer's research would need approximately $2 billion in funding per year. That $2 billion goal is comparable to the research funding for other major "killers in the U.S., like heart disease, but Alzheimer's research's current funding levels pale in comparison at little over $500 million a year, despite the fact that the disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the nation. The Alzheimer's Association gives between $70 and $80 million per year to research in 22 countries.

"More and more people have Alzheimer's in their family; it's actually very common nowadays, Fargo said. "One in nine people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's, and one in three over the age of 85 have it, and the longer we live, the more people who will develop the disease in their family, and they're curious to know more about it. A lot of people think it's the same thing as dementia, or that all dementia is Alzheimer's or that all it is is dementia, which isn't true - it's a fatal brain disease, and dementia is, unfortunately, part of what you experience along the way to the ultimate end of the disease, which is death.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive degenerative brain disease that affects 5.4 million Americans. It causes cognitive decline and a loss in the ability to perform routine tasks. It is most common in people 65 and older, though roughly 10 percent of those diagnosed have early-onset Alzheimer's and are in their 30s, 40s or 50s. …

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