Around 5.8 million people 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Luis Reina, neurologist at CCMH, said the disease causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die.

“The spinal fluid on the surface of the brain and internally in the deep part of the brain because as the brain shrinks, the size of the aqueduct increases to compensate,” said Reina.

When someone has the disease they have problems remembering things and speaking. Dr. Reina said the number of cases will increase as the population continues to grow older.

“Alzheimer’s is a dementia. It accounts for about 70% of all people with significant memory loss and loss of mental capacity,” said Reina.

He said other cases of memory loss can be caused by strokes, prior infections in the brain, and other less common causes. Dr. Reina said there was no movement on finding a cure or stopping it from progressing further until the 1980′s, even though it was first detected in 1906. He said in the ‘90s, a couple of medications came out to slow the progress.

“But, I’m quite excited that in the last year or so, a medication came out that actually removes a gooey protein that settles in the brain and is the reason we lose our mental capacity,” said Reina.

However, progress continues to be made.

“In the last week, we received news that we will be able to do a blood test that will pretty much be able to tell us if somebody has Alzheimer’s,” he said.

Dr. Reina said the new test would allow them to diagnose it earlier and let people join research studies. However, Dr. Reina said there are two ways it can be prevented.

“Physical and mental exercise. If you are mentally engaged, you are less likely to suffer from it. So, the two extremes would be somebody who is constantly on the move regardless of your age and someone who just sits there and does nothing at home. Those who don’t use their brain to problem solve are more likely to have it progress more quickly,” said Reina.

He said you should go to the doctor when you feel like you’re losing capacity.

“As we all grow older, we may be forgetful of this or that, but when it starts to interfere with daily activities, then you know that something is really wrong, and again, family members will probably know before the person,” said Reina.

If you want to help in the mission to find a cure, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Lawton is happening at Elmer Thomas Park on Saturday, September 24th at 10 a.m.

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