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Alzheimer’s Disease

More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.   It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain that results in impaired memory and thinking.  Ron Zec, associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, says it usually starts begins with abnormal memory loss.

SOUND BITE:   “. . . it’s early memory problems that then get worse, there is the additional problem just with intellectual functioning in general, cognitive functioning, your ability to think and reason and solve problems and use language.” 

Zec, who is with SIU’s Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, says the biggest risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are age and family history.  Most of the people who are diagnosed with the disease are over age 65, but it can occur in younger people.   Although there is no cure, some medications can slow its progression and research continues to find others.  He describes some of the current medications used in treating the disease.

SOUND BITE:  “You can divide I guess the treatments into two broad categories – the pharmacological treatments, where you are giving medications and then the nonpharmacological treatments.  So in terms of the pharmacological treatments, we have what are known as the cholinesterase inhibitors.”

Zec said two drugs, Aricept and Namenda, are widely used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.  If someone you know is suffering from serious memory problems and needs help, contact your family physician or call the Alzheimer’s Center at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield at 1-800-342-5748.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.