“We have 5.4 million [patients] now and that number is estimated to triple by 2030. We really have an epidemic on our hands and that is why it is so important to find a cure,” said Cindy Lowery, the guest speaker at Thursday’s Kiwanis luncheon.
Lowery is the vice president of operations at the Chattanooga area office for the Alzheimer’s Association. Michelle Baker, a program chairperson for the month of August, asked Lowery to address Kiwanis members on the reality of Alzheimer’s. Lowery spoke with quick-fire statistics and a ready knowledge on the subject.
“The No. 1 risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is age,” Lowery said. “Last year, the first of the Baby Boomers entered the age of greatest risk, which is 65.”
According to reports presented by Lowery, Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in America and the fifth-leading cause of death among Americans 65 and older. Lowery said the Alzheimer’s Association is working hard to find a cure.
“We have some drug trials going on right now that are very promising. We hope to know by the end of this year, first of 2013, the results of one drug that is very promising as it will stop Alzheimer’s disease,” Lowery said. “It is not a cure, but if we can diagnose it early and have a drug to stop it then that is the next best thing.”
The association is working to have a cure in the next 10 to 15 years.
“Someone asked me one time if we found a cure if I would be out of a job. And I said, ‘I would love to be out of a job for that reason,’” Lowery said. “That would be an awesome problem to have.”
Pamphlets from the Alzheimer’s Association laid out on the tables. It is titled “10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease.” According to Lowery, providing warning signs is one of the association’s biggest programs. These warning signs include: memory changes that disrupt daily life; challenges in planning or solving problems; difficulty completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place; and trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, among others.
“Who here has never lost their keys?” Lowery asked. “That is not a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. When memory loss begins to interfere with daily life, that is when it becomes an issue. If you misplace your keys, but can retrace your steps,” she said, this can be critical to “knowing it’s not Alzheimer’s disease.”
Lowery listed other programs and services offered by the association. She said these services and facts on the disease could be found at the association’s website. Lowery opened the floor for questions and spoke on both factors of Alzheimer’s and possible preventative measures.
“Genetics is a key component of Alzheimer’s, also lifestyle. We promote a healthy lifestyle — healthy diet and exercise. Anything that is teaching your brain something new is a good activity to help stave off Alzheimer’s disease,” Lowery said.
Teaching the brain something new can include: reading a book, doing a crossword puzzle, learning a new language, learning some new dance moves, picking up a new hobby, traveling, and completing challenging tasks. These tasks, and more, have the common component of stimulating and engaging the brain. According to reports delivered by Lowery, brain cells killed through Alzheimer’s can never be replaced.
“People with Alzheimer’s cannot relearn anything,” Lowery said. “We have to make sure doctors know Alzheimer’s patients sometimes cannot undergo surgery. Some will not be able to go through rehab.”
Several Kiwanis members asked about certain contributing factors to Alzheimer’s as reported by recent news segments. This included the top five foods to watch out for and the miracle of coconut oil. Lowery said she always checks the latest news against what is posted at the Alzheimer’s Association website, alz.org.