Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Aging Brain

 Aging isn't pretty. Nor is the June 13 report from the field by scientists working on research and policy matters. (Marilyn Albert of Johns Hopkins; Dr. Reisa Sperling from Harvard and beyond;; Dr. Richard Hodes of NIH's NIA.) Alzheimer's  or AD, as it is known, is 70 percent of dementia in older persons, either alone or in combination with other diseases. Populations are aging; numbers will go up. Among so-called normally aging people  65 years and older, some 32 % show a 'significant amount' of the brain's amyloid plaque associated with the disease. And there is evidence the proclivity for getting AD begins much earlier since 15 years can elapse between the time when signs are discovered and the disease becomes full blown. One third of the current generation of baby boomers now turning 65 have AD or are at risk. At age 85 or older, nearly one half of them will "most likely" have AD. The burden on society is practically incalculable.
The panel speaking at AAAS  indicated that research is way ahead of treatment, and the policy field is up for grabs. There is no cure for AD at the moment, so the best advice is to pursue the same-old same-old health preventative regime : move a lot, eat less, stay mentally and socially active. Delaying onset for even 5 years would reduce Medicare costs by as much as 50 %, the estimate goes. But how we do that is, of course, open to question. More clinical trials are needed, and they are expensive, and the money isn't there unless chair of a key committee has a relative affected. Or so it would seem.  Ronald Reagan can't carry the banner anymore.

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