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Elder Law Radio Interview: Are You Likely to Get Alzheimer's?

  • January 27th, 2009

A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is a devastating one for an individual and his or her family, but it's also a serious public health problem. In the next decades, the Alzheimer's Association predicts that, due to the aging of the huge boomer generation, the number of Alzheimer's patients in this country will rise from 5 million to as many as 16 million.

But as James Wessler, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association's Massachusetts and New Hampshire chapter, tells Harry Margolis in a recent ElderLaw Radio interview, the news isn't all bad. Scientists are gaining a better understanding of the disease and have already discovered some mutations and genetic defects that can predict higher risk. They know that having a close relative with the disease may also raise the chances, and they have even identified a tiny group who experience a 'familial early onset' version of Alzheimer's, which can strike as early as one's 40s or 50s. This devastating form "ploughs through families," Wessler says.

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But Wessler is also a firm believer that there is an environmental aspect to the disease. "The Association sees a connection between brain health and heart health," he tells Margolis, adding that diabetes and heart disease are known risk factors for Alzheimer's. He recommends lifestyle changes, including a heart-healthy diet, exercise, and cognitive and social engagement, to lower the risks of developing Alzheimer's in the future.

While there are still no available medications to slow or reverse the destructive progression of Alzheimer's, many new drugs are in clinical trials. Wessler encourages families to consider taking part in such trials, both for their own benefit and for that of future sufferers. He recommends that those interested should contact the Alzheimer's Association for information about trials in their area, or go to the clinical trials Web page of the National Institutes of Health (clinicaltrials.gov) for lists of national trials.

To listen to Harry's 10-minute interview with Wessler, click here.

To browse other ElderLaw Radio interviews, click here.

Last Modified: 01/27/2009

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