As I read about Gene Wilder’s passing on August 29 at 83 years of age, I reflect upon his incredible contributions to comedy on stage and in film; his love of family and community. Like many of his fans, I was surprised to learn of Mr. Wilder’s three year struggle with Alzheimer’s that was a closely guarded secret among family and friends. Keeping the disease private is the family’s prerogative, but the affects of Alzheimer’s on our nation is much greater than you may realize.
Alzheimer’s affects about 5.4 million people in the United States and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. (fifth for adults aged 65 or older) and affects 524,000 Floridians [Alzheimer’s Association: 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures]. Alzheimer’s occurs in all races, both sexes and impacts people of every social, economic and environmental background. Symptoms of early stages of the disease are loss of short-term memory, difficulty choosing the correct words in conversation and clumsiness with hand skills. As the disease becomes more pronounced, the person needs assistance with routine tasks such as paying bills, meal preparation, dressing and driving.
How do you know if you or your loved ones may be subject to this horrible disease? Here are common risk factors:
* older age
* family history of Alzheimer’s disease
* history of serious head injuries or concussions
* lack of “brain exercise”
* poor nutrition and substance/alcohol abuse
If you or someone you know exhibits symptoms of the disease or has some risk factors, a full medical workup is necessary to rule out Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Early detection of Alzheimer’s is crucial in making preparation for later stages of the disease and taking steps to delay the symptoms and extending your quality of life. Simple lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise and modifying your diet can delay the affects of Alzheimer’s. For example: eating curry foods made with turmeric helps reduce the buildup of Alzheimer-inducing plaque (beta-amaloyds) in the brain [Gregory Cole & Sally Frautschy: UCLA’s Center for Alzheimer’s Research]. MRI’s show low blood flow in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, so sprinkling dark chocolate powder, high in flavanols, on foods has been proven to increase blood flow to the brain; delivering much needed oxygen and nutrition [Norman Hollenberg, MD, Harvard Medical School].
Alzheimer’s research is currently very hot and there are many clinical trials that show promise for new medications and treatments. Early detection and the prospect of new treatments provides hope for those who are presently suffering early stages of Alzheimer’s.
[author: Mr. Erin Doty]