It’s plain and simple: If you have a brain, you are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain disease for which there is no cure or prevention, is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Someone develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds and one in three seniors dies with the disease. It kills more people than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined. The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s is growing—and growing fast. Today, an estimated 5.8 million Americans have the disease, including more than 26,000 Delawareans. Barring the development of medical breakthroughs, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia may nearly triple by 2050.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. The organization’s Delaware Valley Chapter, which serves Delaware as part of its three-state territory, is led by Executive Director Kristina Fransel. Vital! Magazine asked Kristina to share insight into the latest research, the role of public policy in creating change, accessing vital care and support, and how each of us can help the Alzheimer’s Association achieve its vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.
VM: What’s happening in Alzheimer’s research? Is there hope for a cure?
KF: This is such an exciting time in dementia research. The brain is complex and Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, but we’re learning more each and every day, and momentum is accelerating. In fact, a researcher recently shared with a hopeful audience that more new targets for research have been identified in the past two years than in the prior twenty. Thousands of scientists from around the globe are working to better diagnose, treat symptoms of and prevent dementia – so yes, there is so much hope!
I recently attended the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference®, the largest gathering of researchers from around the world focused on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. There were many findings shared at the conference, but one of the most important I can share relates to healthy lifestyle. Evidence continues to build that adopting multiple positive lifestyle habits now may, in fact, decrease the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in later years. The positive habits include choosing a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, not smoking, drinking alcohol just moderately and doing activities that stimulate the brain. Keeping blood pressure within the prescribed ranges has proven beneficial to brain health, too. While there is no cure for the disease yet, these are all proactive measures everyone can adopt to promote brain health. The Alzheimer’s Association’s “10 Ways to Love Your Brain” is a great guide (alz.org/10ways).
VM: Do people living with Alzheimer’s and their families have a voice?
KF: Fortunately, yes—people impacted by dementia do have a voice. This voice is loud, and it is making great strides in bringing Alzheimer’s to the attention of state and federal policymakers. Together, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) and thousands of passionate, dedicated advocates play a significant role in effecting positive change for Alzheimer’s families. To give you just one example of the many victories over the past few years, last September Congress passed and the president signed into law a $425 million increase for Alzheimer’s research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the FY2019 budget. This brings the new total annual funding to $2.3 billion—up from just $448 million in 2011. Research funding is accelerating, but we have a long way to go. Advocates are needed to continue to help share personal stories that drive action. To get involved visit alz.org/advocate.
VM: How does the Alzheimer’s Association serve Alzheimer’s families?
KF: The Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter serves nearly 300,000 people in southeastern PA, southern New Jersey and Delaware. The chapter offers a wide range of programs and services. Among the services are in-person care consultation, support groups and consumer education programs, including full- and half-day conferences for professional and family caregivers. The key access point to all services is the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline available at 800-272-3900. The Helpline is available in more than 200 languages and dialects and is staffed by dementia experts who provide information, emotional support, education, community resources and general disease information. A knowledgeable and caring dementia expert is available any time, day or night. People living with dementia and their caregivers are never alone. We have so much more information available on the chapter’s website, alz.org/delval.
VM: How can Delawareans support the vital efforts you describe?
KF: Getting involved in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s® is a tremendous way to raise awareness and funds to support the Alzheimer’s Association’s work in dementia care, support and research. There are two Walks in Delaware this fall, on Saturday, September 28 at Grove Park in Rehoboth Beach and Saturday, October 19 at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington. We encourage people to start a team with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers—and fundraise to help make Alzheimer’s a distant memory. We need everyone’s help if we’re to meet our fundraising goal of $500,000 for our two Delaware Walks. I encourage everyone to visit alz.org/delval/walk to learn more about Walk to End Alzheimer’s and register today.
Three Ways to Get Involved!
Get educated. Attend the November 20 Delaware Dementia Conference in Dover. Call 800-272-3900 for details and to register.
Become an advocate: alz.org/advocate.
Register and fundraise at a Walk to End Alzheimer’s—September 28 in Rehoboth Beach or October 19 in Wilmington: alz.org/delval/walk .
About the Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. The Delaware Valley Chapter, headquartered in Philadelphia, serves 18 counties in Delaware, South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania by providing programs and services to more than 294,000 individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder. The chapter’s Delaware Regional Office is located at 240 N. James Street, Suite 100A in Newport. For more information about Alzheimer’s disease, programs and services and resources, call the Alzheimer’s Association free, 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit alz.org/delval.