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The State of Alzheimer’s

Caitlin Burm
By Caitlin BurmMay 31, 2018

Last Updated: May 31, 2018

Although advancements are made in Alzheimer’s research every day, scientists in the United States are still searching for a meaningful treatment method that could lead to a cure for the disease.

Learn more about the current state of Alzheimer’s from A Place for Mom Alzheimer’s expert and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, Dr. Wes Ashford, MD, PhD.

The State of Alzheimer’s in 2018

Deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased 123% since 2000, making the disease the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s continues to impact more and more Americans each year, and it is estimated that the disease will cost the U.S. $1.1 trillion in care by 2050.

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A leading memory expert, Dr. Wes Ashford is a Senior Research Scientist at the Stanford Aging Clinical Research Center, who is developing tools for detecting and measuring Alzheimer’s. Dr. Ashford spoke with us about Alzheimer’s advancements and discoveries that have been made in the last year, as well as where we are on the path to finding a cure for the disease.

Learn more from our discussion on the current state of Alzheimer’s:

A Place for Mom (APFM): How are advances in neuroscience changing our understanding of Alzheimer’s?

Dr. Wes Ashford (WA): There have been many advances in the field of genetics and neuroscience — specifically amongst the genetic factors that we know affect the disease — but unfortunately, we have not yet figured out how to alter the effect of the genes to prevent Alzheimer’s. Although we understand the problem, we are still searching for what the solution is. We know that exercise is great for body and mind, and that it can make a few years difference in people with Alzheimer’s, but we are still working on how to impact and prevent the development of the disease itself.

APFM: How are these advances getting us closer to predicting who will develop the disease?

WA: Yes, genotyping is helping us get a very good estimate of who will develop or have Alzheimer’s. A variety of factors — like high blood pressure and obesity in middle age — will also impact an individual’s risk of the disease, so it is important to take good care of oneself to reduce that risk. We are still trying to predict and have better research on who is and who isn’t susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s, but looking at your family history is important.

APFM: Is there a specific mentally stimulating activity that you would recommend to those who want to reverse cognitive decline?

WA: There are many things that someone can do to reverse cognitive decline, including exercising, staying on the Mediterranean Diet and using computerized cognitive enhancement programs. In terms of exercising, it is important to not just walk around the block, but to exert oneself. Be sure to eat healthy and well and also participate in mentally stimulating activities — computerized cognitive programs, crossword puzzles, taking classes or traveling, for instance.

APFM: What can we do to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s?

WA: Work on staying active and eating healthy. When I was a 65-year-old, I joined the USMS, and have found swimming to be helpful to me. It is important, however, to consider your lifestyle and which activity is right for you. I also eat healthy and have a rather set diet: almond butter sandwiches, fish, fresh blueberries and fruits, oatmeal and vegetables to keep my body index low.

APFM: Where are we on the National Institute of Health (NIH) timeline to find a cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s by 2025?

WA: I believe that there are clear and numerous pathways to the prevention of Alzheimer’s, but we may not be any closer to a cure in 2025 unless we remain focused on advancing Alzheimer’s research, as well as treatments of the symptoms and the disease itself.

About Wes Ashford, MD, PhD

Dr. J. Wesson Ashford, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, has dedicated his career to understanding the way Alzheimer’s disease affects memory. Dr. Ashford is Chair of the Memory Screening Advisory Board of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America as well as a Senior Editor of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. He also holds the positions of Clinical Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Senior Research Scientist, Stanford; and Director of the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center in the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

What thoughts do you have about the current state of Alzheimer’s in the U.S.? We’d like to hear more from you in the comments below.

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Caitlin Burm
Caitlin Burm
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