Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Alzheimer’s costs could soar to $1 trillion a year by 2050, report says

 February 5, 2015
A report issued Thursday on the financial impact of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States warns that it could soar to more than $1 trillion a year by 2050, with much of it borne by the federal government, unless action is taken to shift current trends.
The Alzheimer’s Association report, “Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer’s Disease, urges the federal government to meet its own goals for research funding in a bid to find a cure or effective treatments by 2025. The U.S. could save $220 billion within the first five years if such treatments were found, the nonprofit’s report says. Even with an interim treatment that slowed onset by five years, the costs would immediately drop as much as $535 billion over a 10-year period.
“Basically, the science is ready,” Robert J. Egge, vice president of public policy at the Alzheimer’s Association said in an interview. “But we see a lot of good science waiting to be funded, and there simply aren’t the funds to do so.”
Other organizations involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s have also warned the Obama administration and Congress that the demographic shift underway in the United States means that failing to put money into research now could cost the country dearly later.
But advocates also said the Alzheimer’s Association’s report points up the difficulties in coordinating a well-funded attack against the leading cause of dementia even as a demographic shift in the United States toward an older population and attention shifts to chronic age-related diseases.
George Vradenburg, chairman and co-founder of USAgainst Alzheimer’s, said part of the difficulty in sustaining public interest in the fight may be negative cultural attitudes toward aging and a “stigma” that still lingers to a disease that afflicts the mind and hits mostly people who are 65 years or older.

“It’s a disease of the mind, and so it somehow seems as if you’re in control,” Vradenburg said. But he also noted that a similar stigma existed with cancer, which people not so long ago would refer to only as “the big C.” That attitude began to shift after President Nixon declared a “war on cancer” in 1971.
A similar cultural shift could be under way now, Vradenburg said. As more Baby Boomers — the largest generational bulge — head into retirement, more attention has been given to Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related chronic illnesses. The disease has been depicted in recent years in “Sopranos” and “Mad Men” episodes, and the impact of its early onset on an accomplished middle-aged scientist is the subject of the movie “Still Alice.” Julianne Moore, who received Golden Globe for her portrayal of the movie’s title character, has also been nominated for an Academy Award.
“The whole cultural attitude to aging and to death is going to change and ripple through society as Baby Boomers go into their 70s now,” he said.
More than 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s, a number that’s expected to increase to 13.5 million by 2050. The current cost of care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is $226 billion a year; Medicare and Medicaid pick up about 68 percent of the costs. By 2050, the proportion of people suffering from the most severe phase of the degenerative disease — and requiring the most expensive care — will also increase to almost half, or 6.5 million people, of those who are projected to develop the disease.
The 2011 National Alzheimer’s Project Act required the creation of a national plan to fight Alzheimer’s. The plan calls for finding ways to prevent and treat the disease by 2025. Some scientists and advocates say growing advances in a research field that barely existed 40 years ago have generated optimism that the same focused approach that achieved breakthroughs in cancer and HIV research could be accomplished with Alzheimer’s. The odds of success would be better if the United States committed to spending at least $2 billion on research, a sum comparable to the research funding given and cancer and HIV, Egge said.
“We’re far short of that today, approaching $600 million,” Egge said. He also said that the percentage of NIH’s overall funding — approximately 2 percent — is the same as it was in the early 1990s. “I think one reason is that this has been a slowly developing story that only recently has America at large started talking about it,” Egge said.
Vradenburg said he welcomed President Obama’s request to boost funding for the Brain Research though Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, which involves the National Institute of Health and other federal agencies.
But Vradenburg also said that it’s “distressing” that the administration did not push for more resources for Alzheimer’s research as it has done in the past. He said the administration should at least be pushing for incremental funding increases that would boost Alzheimer’s research to $2 billion a year, a target developed by an advisory panel of scientists and set by the Obama administration.
By comparison, the government spends about $3 billion a year researching HIV/AIDS and about $6 billion a year on cancer. Yet cancer costs amount to about $66 billion a year, while Alzheimer’s is estimated to cost $110 billion a year.
“We’re spending $200 billion a year — a quarter of Medicare — right now. How much more do you want the taxpayer to pay?” said Vradenburg, who was AOL’s former chief counsel. “How about an innovation strategy that at least says we ought to relate our research investments to the cost of our diseases?”

Friday, January 23, 2015

What You Should Know About Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

Julianne Moore won a Golden Globe and is nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient in the film Still Alice. Moore’s character, Alice Howland, is just 50 when she is diagnosed, and the movie follows her and her family’s struggle to cope as her memory and mental state decline.
But what is early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and who is at risk? Here’s what you should know about the condition that affects about 200,000 people in the United States.
Not just for old people
Alzheimer’s disease is usually thought of as something senior citizens get. While that is often true, it’s not always the case: Up to 5% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are under age 65—usually in their 40s or 50s—and are considered to have an “early onset” or “younger onset” of the disease.
Symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s are no different than symptoms of more traditional cases, says Mary Sano, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of Alzheimer’s disease research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the Bronx, whom Moore consulted during her research for Still Alice. But because the condition is so rare in adults under 65, the signs may not be recognized as quickly by patients themselves, or by those around them.
“By the time people ask for help, something strange has probably been going on for at least six months,” says Sano. “And often, it’s family members and close friends who can provide a point of view that a change has occurred, which can allow that person to realize something is wrong.”
Because early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is so uncommon, diagnosis may also require testing above and beyond what a senior citizen might undergo. “We want to demonstrate that what’s really present is a cognitive problem and not a psychological or physical problem,” says Sano. “For a younger person, we’ll do a more rigorous workup, including imaging and other tests, because we want to make sure we get this right.”
Early-onset disease has a strong genetic component, so family history—if the patient knows enough about it—can be a big part of a person’s diagnosis, as well. A blood test can determine whether someone has a gene mutation that puts them at higher risk for familial Alzheimer’s, but cannot prove whether they have (or will get) the disease.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Purple Dignity Dinner 2015!

It will be the first of many. I am currently working on having the first annual "Purple Dignity" dinner to help raise money and awareness to fight back with Alzheimer's.
Check it out!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Julianne Moore Grapples With Alzheimer’s in ‘Still Alice’....

Julianne Moore confronts early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in ‘Still Alice.’ Alec Baldwin plays her less-than-heroic husband and Kristen Stewart her daughter.
In “Still Alice,” Julianne Moore plays a 50-year-old professor of linguistics at Columbia University, who while jogging on campus one day finds herself baffled about where she is. That and other symptoms of memory loss lead to a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The drama takes a painstakingly realistic approach as Alice tries to cling to her identity. If she can’t use words, who is she? It also charts the sometimes devastating effect on her family. Kristen Stewart plays her youngest child; their fraught relationship is particularly tested.
Ms. Moore is likely to get Oscar recognition; Alec Baldwin also plays an important part as Alice’s husband. (He also acted husband to last year’s best- actress Oscar winner, Cate Blanchett, in “Blue Jasmine.”) He plays a good man, yet far from the heroic husband who might be expected in a film about a disease. He has his own ambitions, and doesn’t want life to just come to a halt for the family.
“This is a man who clearly feels that if he keeps moving forward he can slow down or even sidestep what’s happening to his wife,” Mr., Baldwin said via email. “I think in the end he is just afraid and makes his decisions from that place.”
Although the film is based on a novel, by Lisa Genova, its realism was informed by its writing-directing team of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (“Quinceanera” in 2006).
Mr. Westmoreland is the husband of Mr. Glatzer, who was diagnosed with the motor neuron disease ALS in 2011. While his physical deterioration was different from the fictional Alice’s mental loss of faculties, both conditions cause irreversible declines. Mr. Glatzer co-directed the film from his wheelchair, able to type out messages with only one finger.
And just as the film sounds more unrelentingly grim than it is, there was humor during production. “Richard’s condition is obviously heartbreaking, but it also led to some funny moments on the set,” Mr. Baldwin said. At times, Mr. Glatzer would clarify Mr. Westmoreland’s direction to the actors. “One day, I blurted out, ‘Oh great! I’m working with a tandem directing team and the guy with the good notes has ALS’, and everyone laughed,” Mr. Baldwin said. The film plays one week in New York, then hits theaters again starting Jan. 16.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

B. Smith, former model stricken with Alzheimer’s get lost.

Alzheimer’s-stricken ex-model B. Smith.

Alzheimer’s-stricken ex-model B. Smith traveled more than 50 miles — from the top of Manhattan to the tip of Staten Island — after vanishing earlier this week, her husband has revealed.
The pioneering celebrity, 65, was found Wednesday at the La Parisienne Coffee House on Seventh Ave. a day after she went missing while heading out to the Hamptons. “Just for the record, here’s what B experienced, so there are no rumors,” husband Dan Gasby wrote on Facebook.
Gasby went on to describe her mysterious journey:
Smith, after traveling to Midtown from the Hamptons, walked north to Harlem. At some point, she turned around and headed back south, marching all the way to the Staten Island Ferry.
She took the ferry to Staten Island, hopped on a bus and eventually made her way back to the terminal.
After returning to Manhattan, she walked all the way to La Parisienne near W. 57th St. “where a friend happened to see her,” Gasby wrote.
Smith, one of the first African-American models to grace the cover of Mademoiselle, had last been seen about 8 p.m. Tuesday getting off the Hampton Jitney in Southampton.
Her husband called the cops after he learned she had inexplicably hopped off the bus before the Sag Harbor stop. It isn’t known how Smith got to Manhattan from the Hamptons.
A frantic search was launched.
Smith, whose first name is Barbara, was located after she was spotted eating at La Parisienne with an older woman.
In June, Smith spoke candidly about her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
You do try to hide it from everybody,” she told CBS News.
Smith — despite not being able to recall the date, month or year — remained hopeful about her prognosis.
“I think the future’s going to be fine,” she said. “I’m going to do my best to make it work out for me, and for as many people that I can possibly help, too.”
Smith couldn’t be reached Friday.
Following her modeling career, she jumped into the restaurant business, opening her first B. Smith restaurant in the city in 1986. She launched two others in the year that followed.
The tireless Smith was also the host of “B. Smith With Style,” a nationally syndicated talk show that aired in the mid-1990s on NBC 4 New York and on NBC affiliates across the country.
In April, after closing her restaurants, Smith and Gasby sold their Central Park West apartment for nearly $6 million and moved east to Sag Harbor.
In his Thursday Facebook post, Smith’s husband said he’s determined to help steer her through the crippling neurological disorder.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Midlife Diabetes Linked to Memory Problems Later

Blood sugar disorder associated with 19 percent greater decline in thinking skills, study reports
HealthDay Reporter
MONDAY, Dec. 1, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A midlife diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes may raise the risk of memory and thinking problems over the next 20 years, new research suggests.
Having diabetes in midlife was linked with a 19 percent greater decline in memory and thinking (cognitive) skills over 20 years, according to the new study.
"What we saw was, people with prediabetes, diabetes and poorly controlled diabetes had the higher risks of cognitive decline. The people with the worse cognitive decline were those with poorly controlled diabetes," said study researcher Elizabeth Selvin, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
However, the study authors acknowledged that this study was only able to find an association between diabetes and prediabetes and an increased risk of memory and thinking problems later in life. It wasn't able to determine if the blood sugar disorders were the actual cause of the memory and thinking issues.
Findings from the study are published in the Dec. 2 Annals of Internal Medicine. It was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
About 21 million U.S. adults have diabetes, according to background information in the study. In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn't use the hormone insulin effectively. Insulin helps get the sugars from foods into the body's cells to be used for energy. Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness and kidney disease, according to the study.
Diabetes has also been linked with dementia risk, but how diabetes relates to earlier declines in memory and thinking is less well known, the study authors wrote.
"We know that cognitive decline occurs five to seven years before dementia. Our goal was to look at how diabetes might be contributing," Selvin said.
The new research followed more than 13,000 middle-aged adults over 20 years. They came from four states: Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi and North Carolina. At the start of the study -- 1990 to 1992 -- the study volunteers were 48 to 67 years old.
Selvin and her colleagues evaluated the study participants' memory and thinking abilities at three different visits over the years. The researchers also had data on whether the volunteers had diabetes or prediabetes, as well as their blood sugar levels at various times in the study.
The researchers measured declines in thinking and memory on a continuum, so it's difficult to give exact measures of the decline linked to the diabetes, Selvin said. But, on average, a 60-year-old who has diabetes has cognitive decline on par with a healthy 65-year-old who is aging normally, according to the researchers.
The study also found that memory and thinking decline was greater for people with prediabetes compared to people with normal blood sugar levels. And, people with diabetes who had higher blood sugar levels (measured as an HbA1C of more than 7 percent) had an even greater risk than those who had lower average blood sugar levels. (HbA1C is a measurement that estimates average blood sugar levels over two to three months, according to the American Diabetes Association.)
The researchers also noted that people who had diabetes for a longer time had more significant memory and thinking problems later in life.
Exactly why the two are linked is unclear, Selvin said. But it could be related to common effects on the blood vessel, she said. Diabetes-related damage to blood vessels may also trigger cognitive changes.
"The study is consistent with other literature we have seen," said Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association. Snyder reviewed the study's findings.
Those with diabetes appear to be at greater risk of cognitive problems, she said, but added, "not everyone with diabetes goes on to develop greater cognitive decline."
The findings demonstrate another good reason to try to prevent diabetes, Selvin said. Losing excess weight, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help prevent type 2 diabetes, she noted.
More information
To learn more about the stages of Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer's Association.
SOURCES: Elizabeth Selvin, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Md.; Heather Snyder, Ph.D., director medical and scientific operations, Alzheimer's Association; Dec. 2, 2014, Annals of Internal Medicine

Friday, November 14, 2014

Autopsy: Robin Williams had Lewy body dementia

The hallucination-causing disease may have contributed to his decision to commit suicide

According to his official autopsy, actor and comedian Robin Williams had a disease called Lewy body dementia (LBD), which may have contributed to his decision to kill himself.
People with LBD have dementia and often appear disoriented. According to ABC News, Williams had displayed odd behavior in his final days — notably, he kept several watches in a sock and was “concerned about keeping the watches safe.”
“The dementia usually leads to significant cognitive impairment that interferes with everyday life,” said Angela Taylor, programming director of the Lewy Body Dementia Association in an interview with ABC News. Still, symptoms are hard to spot. “If you didn’t know them you may not realize anything is wrong.”

LBD is fairly common, with 1.3 million people suffering from the illness in the United States, although it largely remains undiagnosed since it shares symptoms with better-known diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Biologically, the disease stems from abnormal proLBD, the deposits spread throughout the brain, including to the cerebral cortex (responsible for problem solving and perception). The main symptom is progressive dementia, although people with the disease may also experience complicated visual hallucinations that could include smells and sounds, trouble sleeping, changes in attention and symptoms generally associated with Parkinson’s disease (which Williams also had).
tein deposits in the brain stem where they stop the production of dopamine. In
Typically, patients are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease first, and then LBD symptoms begin to appear. An examination of Williams’ brain revealed that it had undergone changes associated with Alzheimer’s, in addition to Parkinson’s and LBD.
“Though his death is terribly sad,” Taylor said, “it’s a good opportunity to inform people about this disease and the importance of early diagnosis.”