Some Iowans are wearing purple today as they try to bring attention to the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. Doctor Heike Schmolck works with the Greater Iowa chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and says today has been designated “Alzheimer’s Action Day.” Schmolck says the disease slowly robs its victims of their memory.
She says there are about 35-million people who have dementia worldwide, and there are about 5.5 million with the disease in the U.S. “And still there’s a lot of people who are not aware of the problem,” Schmolck says. Schmolck says the association also declared September as “World Alzheimer’s Month.”
One of the goals in raising awareness is to try and get an increase in research funding. “Research funding is really an issue, if you think about cancer, which everybody knows about cancer, it is a disease that everybody dreads — federal funding is about 12 times more for cancer than it Alzheimer’s disease, although there are many, many folks affected by Alzheimer’s Disease,” Schmolck says. She says it’s one of the few diseases there is not a cure for.
There are drugs that can slow some of the impact of Alzheimer’s, but Schmolck says they have not advanced much in recent years.
“In my opinion, the drugs that we have are better than no drugs, I use them every day in my patients,” Schmolck says, “but they do not make a difference long term. Meaning they can slow progression for a couple of years, but they cannot make the person stay the same forever.
Schmolck says there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about Alzheimer’s Disease. She says part of it is that people think getting old is associated with getting demented, but she says “that’s absolutely not true.” Schmolck says healthy aging should have nothing to do with cognitive decline.
She says our brains start to decline at age 25 or so, so by the time you are 70 or 80 you won’t be as quick to respond — and your memory won’t be what it once was — but you should still have adequate memory to be able to take care of yourself.
Alzheimer’s Disease gained a lot of attention when former President Ronald Reagan publicly revealed he had it. Schmolck says she hopes the recent announcement that Texas women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt has early dementia will bring more awareness.
Schmolck says she was very proud to see Summitt step forward as she says the disease still has a stigma with it and she says it affects so many people that it should lose that stigma. Schmolck says Alzmheimer’s associations across the state have been holding walks this month to help raise awareness.
She says you can go to the Alzhemier’s Association website at :www.alz.org to find a walk in your area or to donate to the cause.