Archived Story

Association can use your support

Published 7:38pm Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It’s hard to imagine that in an age in which technology allows you to see any point in the world or unlock your car from anywhere, there are some diseases for which no cure has been found.

Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases. The condition was first documented and described in 1906.

At a scientific meeting in November 1906, German physician Alois Alzheimer presented the case of “Frau Auguste D.,” a 51-year-old woman brought to see him in 1901 by her family. Auguste had developed problems with memory, unfounded suspicions that her husband was unfaithful and difficulty speaking and understanding what was said to her. Her symptoms rapidly grew worse, and within a few years she was bedridden. She died in spring 1906.

A breakthrough in the mysterious condition was not made until the 1980s.

For 80 years, people with Alzheimer’s were just considered to be senile.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary senile is “of, relating to, exhibiting, or characteristic of old age; especially: exhibit a loss of cognitive abilities (as memory) associated with old age.”

But it’s so much more than old age.

At least 5.3 million people are living with Alzheimer’s. It’s a fatal brain disease that doesn’t just affect memory loss.

I’ve been blessed to have a family with no history of the disease. So, growing up, what I knew of Alzheimer’s was limited to its Hollywood portrayals.

It’s heartbreaking to watch movie characters forget their loved ones, but like most things in Hollywood, the disease is glossed over for the sake of the box office.

The reality is that Alzheimer’s works by destroying brain cells. It kills short-term and long-term memories, and it eventually starts to shut down other parts of the brain, including those that control motor functions and the part of your brain responsible for involuntary actions such as heartbeat.

This disease is particularly vicious in that it robs people of their life and their identity.

The Alzheimer’s Association is working double time to find a cure and help make more breakthroughs in research and medication.

The Suffolk News-Herald is helping to raise awareness of the disease by publishing a four-week series of articles leading up to the Memory Walk fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. The Memory Walk will take place on Oct. 16.

To find out more, visit www.alz.org.

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