New center, advances in treatment could help reverse Alzheimer’s
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - The ArkLaTex is now home to a new center devoted to helping Alzheimer’s and dementia patients find answers to these devastating diseases.
LSU Health Shreveport along with community partners opened The Bridge Alzheimer’s and Dementia Center on Olive Street in November. It was a long time coming for Dr. Elizabeth Disbrow, director of the Center for Brain Health at LSU Health Shreveport.
“Alzheimer’s a complicated disease,” Disbrow said. “People ask me what can they do? I tell them don’t drink soda, stay away from sugar as much as possible, and exercise.”
The center allows people like Dr. Disbrow to educate some of the more than 92,000 people across Louisiana suffering from the disease. It also allows people to participate in federally funded studies and treatments.
“We have drugs that are coming down the pipeline. There’s one that’s pretty controversial. It’s stuck at the FDA right now but we have been approved as a site so if that drug is released we will be able to give it to folks in our community and it’s targeting earlier stages of the disease.”
Recently lawmakers signed a bill allowing for the largest increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia research funding. Dr. Disbrow said the center is looking for more potential candidates within the community to be part of several funded studies at the Center for Brain Health, checking the effects of Alzheimer’s.
“We’re looking for people who may be worried about their memory or maybe their loved one has been diagnosed.”
More than six million people in the U.S. suffer from the disease. It’s estimated each person has at least three to four caregivers. More than 16 million of those caregivers go unpaid, caring for a family member or friend in their home.
Charles Fuschillo, Junior is the president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The group offers a hotline where people can call and run through a quick memory test, which is vital to determining if someone has signs of dementia.
“We call it a check-up from the neck up,” said Fuschillo. “It’s a reaction to your thinking skills, your language skills and your memory skills as well. It’s so critically important that you get a baseline score to see how you’re doing. So many people think that when they’re forgetting things it’s attributed to Alzheimer’s disease. But that’s not true. You could have a vitamin deficiency, suffering from depression, sleep apnea, a thyroid problem, all treatable if not correctable but you won’t know unless you get tested.”
Fuschillo said oftentimes memory tests can determine if the disease is advanced or in the early stages.
New research also showed significant increases in dementia due to lifestyle. Dr. Disbrow said exercise can play a role in regrowing cells in the brain, just like it would in muscles.
“There’s a lot of new evidence that cardiovascular health is a big part of the disease and we’ve partnered with the cardiovascular center at LSU to look at markers of cardiovascular disease-related to cognitive function.”
The Center for Brain Health at LSU has been involved in several new studies that could lead to treatments to “reverse” dementia.
“All of the drugs are going to be about prevention. I don’t think we’re going to be able to cure someone who is in full-blown Alzheimer’s disease for a while but we can get people early on, to slow it down and maybe reverse it. That’s what we’re looking at.”
Right now the center would like to find people with early signs of the disease so they can be tested. If they qualify, they can be part of a free federally funded study. If you’re interested, you can call 318-656-4800.
For testing with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of American, click here.
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