Many voices are telling us about things we ought to fear. Some voices we should be listening to are those telling us to fear Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s a dreadful disease because it slowly saps away the parts of people that make them people and leaves behind a diminished being dependent on the care of others. That dreadfulness is compounded by the fact there are no effective preventions or treatments; none proven, anyway.
It’s the sort of thing nobody wants to think much about or talk much about because the topic seems so bleak.
At the same time, however, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease and three times that many — about 16 million — are providing care for Alzheimer’s victims; that’s not counting health care professionals.
As many as 16 million Americans could be suffering from Alzheimer’s by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That implies that almost 50 million people will be involved in caring for a loved one with the disease in a little more than 30 years.
The ramifications of those numbers are staggering.
“Alzheimer’s is a looming global crisis,” Dr. Giulio Taglialatela told The Daily News for an article on today’s front page.
“Without a cure or a method to slow the disease, our health care system will be completely overwhelmed in the next few decades.”
Taglialatela, the Lawrence J. Del Papa Distinguished Professor in Neurology and director of the Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Texas Medical Branch, argues that research is our best hope in mitigating the bad consequences of this huge and frightening public health issue.
There already have been some promising advances and we can all contribute in simple ways to the work toward more.
Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch see hope in new classes of anti-inflammatory drugs, for example.
An experimental drug called Aducanumab is promising as are some vaccines researchers have been studying.
Likewise, there’s evidence that lifestyle choices such as getting physical exercise, exercising the brain through continued learning, eating certain foods and supplementing diet with things such as the spice curcumin may also have benefits.
All of this hopeful news comes from expensive research.
One thing each of can do is contribute to funding that research. One way to do that is by participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which will be held Oct. 14 in Galveston on Stewart Beach.
Last year, when we wrote news articles and editorials in advance of the event, a researcher said the journey to find a cure for Alzheimer’s will require contributions from all of us — scientists, patients and their families, all health care professionals, policymakers and legislators and a commitment of huge financial and human resources.
Organizers hope to raise about $164,000 for support, care and research. On Saturday, the effort was a little more than 50 percent from that goal.
• Michael A. Smith