The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Alzheimer’s nearing epidemic, speaker says

By Chris Webb/reporter

Not so long ago, Alzheimer’s disease was nothing more than an obscure medical term, unfamiliar to most and a concern to few. Now, it is a term associated with tragedy in many families.

Alzheimer’s is a growing problem, and according to Judy Budlong, program coordinator for the North Central Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, it will not go away anytime soon.

“ Alzheimer’s is nearing epidemic proportions; the number of reported cases has sky rocketed in past decades, and it’s only going to get worse,” she said during her speech at an Alzheimer’s seminar on NE Campus Sept. 6.

“ The chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases exponentially after age 65, and by 85, the chance of developing a form of dementia, most often Alzheimer’s, a category of dementia, is 50 percent.”

These statistics are troubling now, but the real danger is what happens when one out of every five people on earth is 65 or older.

For now, just a concern, but according to Dolores K. Sutter, associate professor and chairwoman for the mental health and paralegal department on NE Campus, it will be a reality by 2030.

Alzheimer’s disease might be more prevalent than ever before, but some of the details remain muddled.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys a person’s memory and reason.

A brain afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease has abnormal microscopic clumps of protein and other structures that show up on brain scans as plaques and tangles.

These abnormalities damage the brain by destroying brain cells along with the ability to function or reason.

Alzheimer’s patients gradually regress to their earliest memories as their short and more recent long-term memories are destroyed.

The effects that people display can be far more telling than any medical description, Budlong said.

“ I have had patients read a newspaper for four hours, put it down and not be able to tell you a thing they just read,” she said. “There are cases where the patient will forget their own name.”

Some people live with the disease for four or five years before getting to this point while some regress more quickly. Medication can slow down the disease, but the trick is to catch it early, Budlong said.

Many believe that Alzheimer’s disease is hereditary, but Budlong said this is a misconception.

“ There are some cases where there is a genetic link, but it is far more rare than people think.”

According to the Aging and Disabilities Resource Center, there is no known cause for Alzheimer’s disease, only risks.

“ The number one risk with any dementia simply seems to be aging. That may sound weird, but it’s true,” Budlong said. “If you live long enough, anyone is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

“ There is no cure for Alzheimer’s and very little to treat it, but that is why it’s so important that we get more of the scientific community involved.”

Anyone can get involved. One way is by participating in memory walks through the Alzheimer’s Association.

“ It’s like a tsunami. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related diseases will reach epidemic proportions soon,” Budlong said.

“ The wave is coming, and we need to be prepared.”

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