This past July I had the opportunity to join colleagues from across the globe as we convened in Copenhagen Denmark for the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. Nearly 4,500 professionals representing organizations both large and small, from every corner of the globe, were in attendance. It’s always a great feeling to come together as one in the fight to end Alzheimer’s.
It’s amazing how much information is shared in one place. One can appreciate where we started, the gains we have made, and how much more work lies ahead. Yes, there is more work to do. Plans are already underway for next year’s conference. And there will be more awareness campaigns and Walks, like the one held in Boston on Sunday the 28th of September, to help educate people and raise funds.
By some estimates, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease and every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's.
I leave you with three highlights from the conference:
It was found that both smell and eye tests could help detect early Alzheimer’s disease (AD). There were a couple of studies showing an association between the loss of brain cell function and progression to AD with a decreased ability to identify odors. Other research showed how a special type of eye exam could visualize beta amyloid (a protein associated with AD) resulting in identification of those participants in the study with AD. These are preliminary findings and more research is currently being conducted.
A group of at–risk older adults participated in a two year randomized control study known as the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER Study). It found that changes in life style (including physical activity, nutritional counseling, cognitive training, social activities and management of cardiac risk factors) improved cognitive performance in the intervention group vs. the control group that received regular medical care. This research reveals the positive impact of non-drug interventions to improve cognition.
Preliminary findings from another study revealed that individuals with dementia who had cataract surgery not only had improved vision and quality of life, but also exhibited a decline in memory loss and improvement in behavioral measures. In addition, caregivers felt a reduced burden post surgery.
We’re in this fight together.