Alzheimer's More Prevalent than Previously Believed

The Chicago Tribune (one of today's top referrers to cognitive labs!) is reporting significant findings from the Rush Medical Center that indicate that Alzheimer's Disease is a much greater risk than previously believed - in fact, the frequency may be twice that which has recently been reported - the figure of 4 to 5 million Americans. The study quotes Dr. Ronald Peterson, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and one of the physicians who treated former president Ronald Reagan in his struggle with Alzheimer's.

I know that Dr. Wes Ashford at the Stanford/VA Alzheimer's Center in Palo Alto (whose CNN Local Edition interview you can hear on MemCast radio - our new MP3 offering for ipod or your PC) has mapped out a very provocative scenario showing that as longevity is attained, paradoxically the risk of cognitive impairments becomes greater and greater. Dr. Ashford is now at an int'l conference in Sorrento Italy, under the Tuscan sun.

We can take it as axiomatic that we will all be living longer and working longer than we thought 20 years ago. But there is hope, and the first step one can take is to make cognitive health your own responsibility - through exercise, training, and monitoring. If you don't do it first, who's going to do it for you? Our healthcare professionals already face a daunting workload with increasingly well-informed patients (thanks to Google and WebMD and other sources). Help them to do their job by becoming informed and making cognitive wellness your own personal mission....apparently you are today...our heaviest day ever in terms of traffic...cognitivelabs.com slowed to a crawl and often was just inaccessible...need to do something about that.


CHICAGO - The discovery of an early stage of Alzheimer's disease may drive up the number of Americans thought to have the memory-robbing disorder by 100 percent, researchers at Chicago's Rush University reported Monday in the science journal Neurology.

Mild cognitive impairment, in which a person has increasing difficulty forming new memories, had been considered a normal part of aging but now appears to be an indicator of Alzheimer's disease, said the report's lead author, Dr. David A. Bennett, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush.

The researchers emphasized, however, that most people who worry about losing their memory as they age are not suffering from creeping Alzheimer's.

The findings emerged from the largest study ever conducted on people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. The research, which involved postmortem examinations of the brains of 180 Catholic nuns, priests and brothers, indicates that most of the 2.5 million to 10 million Americans with that condition may already have some degree of Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's was considered relatively rare until 1989, when Dr. Dennis Evans, now a member of the Rush team, reported results of a Boston population study showing the disorder was relatively common, affecting an estimated 4 million Americans. More recent Rush studies now put the number at 5 million.

The disease currently affects one in 10 people over age 65 and nearly half of those over 85, figures that could increase substantially if the early stage is added to the calculations.

"The number of people with Alzheimer's disease could double if you included all the people with mild cognitive impairment," said Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and spokesman for the Chicago-based Alzheimer's Association.

"This underscores the absolute necessity of our doing research to prevent or slow down Alzheimer's disease," he said. "If you couple this kind of information with the baby boomer generation aging into the period of risk, you have a real concern not only to individuals and families, but to the health care system as a whole."

Many people live into their 80s and beyond with their memory intact, suggesting that Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging.

"Almost everybody complains about their memory," Bennett said. "But, in fact, most of those people, if you test them, their memory is fine. What they have is a difficulty remembering."

The difference has to do with storage and retrieval, he said.

"Each day of your life you take a photograph and you put it in an album and then you go back and look through it and see what you did in your life," Bennett said. "When most people say, 'I can't remember,' it means they're sifting through that album and they can't find what they're looking for right away. It takes them longer, but it's there.

"In Alzheimer's disease you stop putting in new pictures," he said. "You can search all you want but the memory is just not in your head."

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