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Alzheimer’s Disease

More than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.   It is the sixth 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.  Ronald Zec, associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, says it usually starts with abnormal memory loss.

SOUND BITE:  “ . . . there’s an early impairment in new learning and memory.   In other words, the patients are becoming increasingly forgetful and that is because the part of the brain that is attacked first by this disease.  Now that memory impairment in time, year by year, will get worse and worse . . .”

Zec, who also 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 behavioral and environmental treatments and medications can slow its progression.  He describes some of the medications used in treating the disease.

SOUND BITE:    “The pharmacological treatments fall into two categories including the cholinesterase inhibitors, drugs that inhibit the enzyme cholinesterase.   there are three or four approved drugs in that category, Aricept, being one that is fairly widely advertised, and then there is Namenda or Mematine for the genetiv name". 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.