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The Fight Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Diagram of the brain of a person with advanced Alzheimer’s Disease (Wikimedia Commons)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

Over 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth most common cause of death in the United States, and the number of Alzheimer’s deaths is likely underreported.

A form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease slowly ravages the brain, robbing affected people of their memory and cognitive abilities until they are no longer able to perform simple tasks.

Though common, Alzheimer’s is still poorly understood and those affected deal with stigma.

On this week’s Noon Edition, we examine the current state of affairs in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

Guests

Denise Saxman, Director of Programs for Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter

Cathleen Weber, Executive Director at the Better Day Club, an adult day program for those with Alzheimer’s

Dr. Martin Farlow, Neurologist

Phyllis Ferrell, Vice President, Global Alzheimer’s Disease Platform Team, Eli Lilly and Company

Conversation

Dr. Martin Farlow gives a basic description of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Specifically, there are plaques formed of a protein called amyloid outside the cells in the brain, the neurons, that interfere with the function of the neurons, and inside the neurons a protein called Tau forms neurofibillary tangles,” Dr. Farlow says

Farlow explains that the process leading to Alzheimer’s disease starts much earlier than symptoms manifest themselves.

“But we now know that Alzheimer’s disease, the process itself, starts as much as twenty years before,” Dr. Farlow says. “It’s not simply something that happens when people age. It does occur in older people, but there are changes in the brain that indicate an illness is occurring.”

Executive Director Cathleen Weber explains why she felt the need to start the Better Day Club.

“Better Day Club started five years ago as a response to people living with Alzheimer’s who I’d worked with for many years who were just expressing a lot of frustration and disappointment at the changes that living with Alzheimer’s was bringing to their lives,” Weber says.

Phyllis Ferrell talks about Lilly’s efforts to develop drugs that can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s or stop it altogether.

“Together, we are working very, very hard to find things that might get at the underlying pathology of the disease so that ultimately someday someone can say they’re a survivor of Alzheimer’s disease and we do see that on the horizon, it’s just not getting here as fast as we’d like,” Ferrell says.

Denise Saxman untangles some of the confusion between Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

“There are approximately 170 types of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent,” Saxman says. “It’s about 70 percent of dementias are of the Alzheimer’s type. But there’s many of them. The Alzheimer’s Association name is actually Alzheimer’s Association and Other Related Dementias, we take care of or provide services to anybody with any type of dementia, but the prevalent form is Alzheimer’s disease.”

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