Thomas Ramey Watson

From Greg O’Brien’s latest book, “On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s”

At a recent Cure Alzheimer’s Fund symposium at the Harvard Club of Boston, Tanzi noted that without a cure, more than 100 million people worldwide are expected to have Alzheimer’s in the next 25 years, which will bankrupt health care systems. Alzheimer’s, he said, is not your grandfather’s disease. The buildup of amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles and inflammation–telltale signs of Alzheimer’s–can begin when one is in their 30s. It’s a slow progression leading to the 10 warning signs:

• Memory loss that disrupts daily life
• Challenges in planning or solving problems
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
• Confusion with time or place
• Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• Problems with words in speaking or writing
• Misplacing items and losing the ability to retrace steps
• Decreased or poor judgment
• Withdrawal from work or social activities
• Changes in mood and personality, such as chronic depression, anxiety and fearfulness

Alzheimer’s, Tanzi said, is not just the end stage, but a journey to the grave, a slow death by a thousand cuts. Chief risk factors, he notes, include: family history, head injury, Alzheimer’s marker genes, gender, age, and stroke/emotional trauma. I’m hitting for the cycle on risk factor with a generational family history of the disease, two traumatic head injuries, clinical depression, and the marker gene APOE-4.

“You’re not getting out of this,” my doctors tell me.


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