Discover a newly approved treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease
According to the 2021 Alzheimer’s disease Facts and Figures report, an estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older, one in nine, are living with Alzheimer’s disease. This degenerative condition of the brain is more than age-related memory loss. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia and it kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Alzheimer’s prevalence is growing. By 2060, this figure is forecasted to triple. The risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age, yet the disease begins to develop earlier than you may expect. Changes to your brain can start up to 20 years before you experience symptoms; that’s why our Springfield clinic recommends Alzheimer’s medicine and lifestyle choices that are preventative in nature.
The good news is, the earlier you take action, the more empowered you are to regain control of your health’s trajectory. Our clinic in Springfield is excited about the new Alzheimer’s drug that was recently approved as it can make a significant difference to your quality of life. So, don’t wait. Don’t leave your health to chance.
Here’s what you need to know about the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and what you can do about it.
What is mild cognitive decline?
One in 12 Americans over 50 years are living with what we call Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). MCI is the first clinically recognizable stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms of MCI are noticeable but do not necessarily interfere with day-to-day life. Think little mistakes related to short-term memory loss, like forgetting the day of the week or struggling to find the right words or names of familiar people. Often, the signs of MCI are mistaken for normal aging.
Alzheimer’s disease is not the only potential cause of MCI. Depression, vitamin deficiencies, and thyroid abnormalities can also trigger the onset of MCI symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to speak with your doctor early on. The sooner you get answers, the sooner you can embark on the right treatment path.
What are the symptoms of MCI?
The symptoms of MCI can affect several areas or “domains” of cognition. However, when MCI involves memory, it is called the “amnestic subtype,” and individual affected this way are at high risk of conversion to Alzheimer’s disease. Problems with memory can include:
- Forgetting names, birthdays, appointments, and other events
- Struggling to navigate familiar places, such as your home or local supermarket
- Losing your train of thought mid-sentence or being unable to follow conversations, movies, or books
- Repeating the same word, having difficulty pinpointing the right word, or asking the same questions over and over
But be on the lookout for other warning signs. Dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s disease, can present with impairment of other cognitive domains, such as the ability to perform tasks, demonstrate good judgement, or changes in mood and personality. Here are some examples:
- Struggling to perform basic, familiar tasks, such as cooking a meal
- Failing to judge distances or having difficulty with tasks that require hand-eye coordination
- Having difficulty remembering and following instructions
- Becoming easily overwhelmed when you are required to make a judgment or decision
- Experiencing out-of-character mood changes, including feeling irritable, impulsive, depressed, or unusually nervous
In any case, if you or someone you know has cognitive impairment affecting any of these domains it’s time to get checked out by a professional.
Take prompt action
Someone with high blood pressure will likely see their doctor. They want to take action before the worst-case scenario strikes. In contrast, someone experiencing the symptoms of MCI may put off visiting a healthcare professional because they don’t want an Alzheimer’s diagnosis or they dismiss the memory loss as “normal for age.” Even though it might be challenging to acknowledge the fact that you or a loved one is showing signs of Alzheimer’s, the sooner it is recognized the better. We strongly encourage our patients in Springfield to seek out Alzheimer’s medicine and create lifestyle changes to help slow down the disease.
There is fear and stigma attached to Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s critical to overcome any reservations and come forward. Ignoring the symptoms won’t make them go away. Instead, an early diagnosis gives you the life-changing opportunity to be proactive about your care and use the latest treatments to your advantage. With the right approach, you can get one step ahead of the disease, and that can have a profoundly positive impact on your life moving forward.
Bob and Vivian’s story
Every evening Bob and his wife Vivian would sit down and share the events of their day. But Vivian, a bookkeeper for the couple’s farm appraisal business, knew there was a problem when Bob couldn’t recall the names of the clients he had visited.
Bob and Vivian weren’t just successful business owners. They were proud parents and grandparents and even counted their son Charlie’s dog Rusty as their fourth grandchild.
Rusty was always welcome when Charlie was on the road, and Bob had made the trip to pick up the loyal canine from his son’s home many times before. But one day, he got lost. He phoned Charlie for help. It was another red flag.
Bob was also a talker, a natural storyteller. But he started getting stuck mid-sentence and using the wrong words. Soon, he was forgetting appointments. Although the signs were subtle at first, they worsened. Vivian knew it was more than ‘normal aging.’
Bob’s mother, Alice, had a similar experience in the final years of her life. The couple had witnessed her decline and made the difficult decision to put her into a memory care facility when she could no longer be cared for at home. Vivian feared the same thing was happening to her husband – years too early. They had so many retirement plans to look forward to, and Vivian recalled Alice’s doctor telling them there was very little medicine they could use to help people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Vivian and Bob visited a neurologist and shared Bob’s struggles. They expected grim news. The doctor listened carefully and performed a detailed neurological examination. Bob’s in-office memory test confirmed the problem, which, fortunately, was mild.
They learned that a variety of factors contribute to cognitive decline, and the doctor they saw specialized in identifying what he called ‘the 36 holes in the roof.’ If only one or two holes are plugged, he explained, the roof will still leak.
“We have to take the time to get to know your unique story,” the doctor said. “Then, we can use the right tests to identify all of the imbalances causing your brain to work this way. But first, we must be sure about the diagnosis.”
Bob was sent for an MRI, which incorporated a new technology that measures the volume of specific brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
“If the volume of a region called the hippocampus is very low, then this is a strong clue,” said the doctor.
“The next step might be a simple in-office test that allows for the measurement of proteins that we believe play a significant role in causing this disease.”
“We can also test for a gene called ApoE4 that not only indicates your level of risk for developing Alzheimer’s,” the doctor continued. “But it might be something Charlie and your other children would want to do. There is emerging evidence that, by making changes now, they may be able to delay or prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease for themselves if they were to have one or two copies of the gene.”
Most doctors are not making use of the science that is currently available.
“Your genes are important, but they are not your destiny,” he said. “We’ve come a long way from the idea that there’s nothing that can be done.”
Vivian and Bob found comfort knowing that the doctor was using the latest technology to make an accurate diagnosis, help them explore the reasons why this was happening, and develop a treatment plan that could change Bob’s trajectory.
The doctor gave Vivian and Bob hope. Finally, they might be able to follow through on some of those retirement plans they had worked so hard to make possible over all those years.
There was more good news. The FDA had just approved a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. This treatment, called Aduhelm, is the first available medicine to target one of the proteins thought to cause Bob’s decline.
“If we correct the factors that caused this protein build-up and start a treatment that can remove the protein that has accumulated, then I think we can give Bob a fighting chance.”
Vivian knew that this was just the beginning of the journey. But it would be a journey she could take with Bob that was different from the journey she and her husband took with Bob’s mother.
“All kinds of lives go in different ways,” she said. But for Bob, he would now have hope of a new day, a day he would remember.
Discover a newly approved treatment option
In June 2021, the FDA approved the new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm (aducanumab). This is great for Springfield residents and beyond as Aduhelm treatment works against the early-stage of Alzheimer’s disease and MCI.
The broad scope of services available under one roof at Sharlin Health and Neurology, located in the Springfield/Ozark area, incorporates cutting-edge diagnostics and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Put in another way, my solutions give you access to all the support and services you could possibly need. As a primary investigator in several clinical trials, I am proud to be a leader in emerging treatments for Alzheimer’s and Mild Cognitive Impairment. You won’t find another clinic in Southwest Missouri with more experience in the assessment and management of this disease, especially one that includes groundbreaking anti-amyloid therapy.
What is Anti-Amyloid Therapy?
Our clinic in Springfield is thrilled that the Aduhelm treatment is the first medicine that targets amyloid beta protein which is believed to play a major role in causing Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also the first new treatment approved for the condition since 2003, and the first to address the cause. Aduhelm’s efficacy was tested in three separate studies with 3,482 participants before receiving fast-tracked approval from the FDA.
A deep dive into the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease reveals changes traditionally referred to as “plaques.” These plaques are made up of insoluble amyloid beta protein. When they build up in the brain, they cause brain cells to die. Aduhelm attaches to amyloid-beta, triggering your defense mechanisms, which then respond by destroying the plaques. Researchers believe this may protect brain cells from dying and prevent or slow the decline of your memory and cognitive function.
Although this new Alzheimer’s drug is great, our Springfield experts want you to know that Aduhelm is not a magic-bullet fix-all solution for everyone with Alzheimer’s disease — it has limitations. The FDA-approved label states the treatment should only be used on patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s or MCI before too many brain cells are destroyed. That’s why it’s so vital to reach out as soon as you notice the symptoms listed above. Contact your doctor or reach out to our team to learn if Aduhelm is suitable for you or your loved one.
Don’t ignore the changes
Don’t ignore changes related to memory loss. See us at the first sign of symptoms in you or a loved one and ask us about cognitive screening. The sooner we can diagnose MCI, the sooner we can put you on the right treatment path. With the newly approved Alzheimer’s drug, our Springfield clinic wants you to take the steps you can take today to protect your tomorrow.
To find out more or schedule your initial consultation with me, please get in touch with my friendly team.