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It’s National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Know the Signs and Symptoms

AlzheimersMemory loss that disrupts daily life.  Confusion with time or places.  Mood swings and withdrawal from social activities.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these are the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, an incurable disease that is expected to affect nearly 14 million people by 2015.

To help drive awareness of the disease during November – National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month – physicians from Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Associates (MNA) want to remind folks of the signs and symptoms, as well as provide information on early intervention and treatment.

“President Reagan declared November as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in the early 80s.  At the time, only about 2 million people were affected by the disease.

Today, the number of people affected has doubled, with no signs of slowing down,” said Courtney Preston, M.D., a neurologist at Patient Centered Neurology at Mischer Neuroscience Associates located on the campus of Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center.  “It’s more important than ever to educate our family, friends and neighbors about Alzheimer’s so they recognize the disease and seek treatment early.”

Alzheimer’s Disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common cause of dementia, a loss of brain function that affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior.

“Difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events is often a very early sign of Alzheimer’s.  These signs combined with depression is also a big indicator,” said Ankit Patel, M.D., a neurologist at Katy Neurology, which is affiliated with Mischer Neuroscience Associates.

As the disease progresses, symptoms are more obvious and interfere with the ability to care for oneself, including basic everyday tasks.  Characteristics of this stage include:

• Inability to walk or move from place to place unassisted

• Complete dependence on others for activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, preparing meals, etc.)

• Complete loss of short and long term memory

“While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, early intervention is key,” added Dr. Patel.  “There are ways to improve symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease.”

Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute – the “flagship” facility of MNA located in the Texas Medical Center – was the first in Houston to offer a new diagnostic tool that enables physicians to diagnose Alzheimer’s definitively, and gives researchers insights into how they might one day prevent the disease.

Through the use of a new screening tool, called amyloid imaging, an FDA-approved agent called Amyvid binds to abnormal proteins in the brain, enabling physicians to visualize the protein on a patient’s brain imaging scan. If they see the protein, called beta-amyloid, they can know for sure that the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s and can begin appropriate treatment.

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