Alzheimer’s Matters, the official blog of the ADDF, features insights, perspectives and commentary on current topics of interest in Alzheimer’s disease and related drug discovery.
We’ve known for years that aging is the single greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. It’s never clearer than when reviewing the hard numbers: 96 percent of the 5.5 million Americans living with the disease are over the age of 65 and one in three Americans over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s. The challenge is translating this basic knowledge into a cure for the disease. That’s where the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), our portfolio of carefully selected drug discovery research targets, and cadre of events for researchers and those affected by Alzheimer’s comes into play.
By Howard Fillit, MD, Executive Director & Chief Science Officer
As a medical student in the 1970s, I studied hundreds of diseases impacting the heart, the brain and the body. But there’s one disease whose name never crossed my lips or the lips of my professors: Alzheimer’s. Today, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a world where Alzheimer’s—a form of dementia that plagues one in six women over 65 and one in three individuals over the age of 85—is not a part of the public consciousness. That shift in awareness, alone, is worth applauding. In just over 35 years, we have given a voice to those suffering from this devastating disease and begun the process of finding a cure. We have also seen government funding for Alzheimer’s research jump from $675,000 in 1976 to $504 million in 2013.
A new study from Tufts Medical Center adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that it is possible to take steps to lower one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or delay its onset. By tackling four key risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease—heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and BMI—researchers determined that patients could decrease their likelihood of developing the disease, postpone its start and minimize its duration.
We’ve known for years that the number of deaths caused by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias have been underreported, but a recent study identified the disease as the potential third-leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer. The study, published last week in the journal Neurology, found that the number of people who die from Alzheimer’s may be five times higher than previously thought, partly because death certificates often fail to list Alzheimer’s as a contributing cause of death. But this is only part of the story. The problems begin many years before death, when the disease is in its earliest stages.
2013 was filled with many accomplishments and forward movement in the field of Alzheimer’s research, thanks in part to your ongoing support and generosity. This year, as we celebrate ADDF’s 10th anniversary, we look forward to working together to advance the most promising Alzheimer’s research and ultimately impact the lives of millions around the world.
An 80-year-old successful and active businessman came to see me because of mild memory problems, and was afraid he had early Alzheimer's disease. Before he stepped into my office he'd already been considering major life-altering questions such as "Do I now need to quit the lifelong work that I love?," "how soon will I be disabled and demented?," and "how will my family take care of me if I have Alzheimer's?"
The current and projected costs of dementia care are enormous, costing the US as much as heart disease or cancer today, and creating a potentially crippling financial burden on our society in the future, as the number of people diagnosed with dementia is expected to more than double in the next 30 years.