World Alzheimer’s Day

The reactions I get from some people when I talk about supporting Alzheimer’s research are odd. They seem to say that God meant our brains to suffer debilitating damage after a certain number of years, though they don’t put it in religious terms. If you talk that language, “God” also “meant” most of us to die by the age of forty. That hasn’t stopped people from doing medical research and promoting sanitary practices that have brought us close to double that figure. There’s no more reason for us to accept the inevitability of our brains’ shutting down while our bodies are still going.

September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day, and it’s a day for reminding people how much misery the disease causes and what can be done to make it preventable or curable.

Research on treatments hasn’t offered much. There’s some information on prevention; basically, if you live a healthy lifestyle and keep your mind active, you improve your odds somewhat. When we consider that the amount of money spent on Alzheimer’s research has been tiny compared to heart disease, cancer, and the like, the shortage of progress is no reason to give up. It’s a reason to put in more resources, to donate more money. My totally uneducated guess is that the best hope lies in medicines that will prevent the accumulation of amyloids before cognitive symptoms can show up.

Alzheimer’s is counted as the number five or six killer of Americans among diseases, and it’s possibly the most trying to deal with (though strokes certainly give it competition). Cancer and respiratory disease at least allow some dignity to the end. The idea of having my brain gradually turn to mush scares me more than a painful end from cancer.

We don’t know what it will take to reach a breakthrough, but given what’s been accomplished with so many other diseases, there’s every reason to believe medical science can find ways to cure it or at least significantly slow its progress. (Remember when a diagnosis of AIDS was a death sentence?) I recommend supporting the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. With advances in research, fewer people should have to face the prospect of having their minds go first or seeing it happen to someone in their family.

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